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Blog: Staff Picks

staff picks

Saving Sophie By Ronald Balson

sophieThis is the newest legal thriller by Chicago trial attorney Ronald Balson, who wrote When We Were Brothers, a huge success at our library. I expect nothing less from Saving Sophie, which was published as a paperback original in September.
Main character Jack Sommers was one of two attorneys on a huge deal in which 88 million dollars of the clients money went missing. The client, a prominent manufacturer who dabbles in fixing sporting events, is furious – and wants his money! The other attorney in the deal was murdered, and Jack has disappeared. Where could he be? Enter the team of hunky Chicago Private Investigator Liam Taggart, and his love, beautiful Attorney Catherine Lockhart. They discover that Jack Sommer’s daughter, Sophie, has been taken by his late wife’s parents to live with them in Palestine, following a hotly contested custody battle. Jack wants his daughter Sophie back, and will stop at (almost) nothing to retrieve her from his evil father-in-law, a prominent physician who is head of a violent splinter group which is planning terrorist attacks on Israel. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this, as it is very different from my usual taste. Saving Sophie is fast paced, and had me on the edge of my seat as I cheered for the good guys, racing to reunite Sophie with her loving Dad. The romance between P.I. Liam Taggart and Attorney Catherine Lockhart, which began in When We Were Brothers, flourishes here and serves as diversion from some grim detective work. This will appeal to a wide audience, men and women alike. 


Saving Sophie  Ronald Balson  Nancy's Picks


The Mare by Mary Gaitskill

the mareWow!

I read the first 400 pages of The Mare in one five hour stretch – I could not put this novel down. But then I took an hour to read the final three dozen pages because I did not want the book to end.

Well-meaning Ginger and her husband Paul are a childless white couple who live in upstate New York. The pair volunteers to host an underprivileged child from Brooklyn for a few weeks in the summer as a way to “do some good.” Into their lives walks Velvet, the part Dominican daughter of an angry single mother who constantly berates the girl, and favors her brother.

Velvet lives in a bad neighborhood, attends a tough school, and has a hard time with adolescence. She at first is ill at ease with Ginger and Paul, but her awkwardness melts away when she enters the horse barn next door. She loves the horses and she seems to hear them speaking to her. Learning to clean, groom, and muck stalls gives Velvet a sense of purpose as well as an opportunity to learn to ride – which she does well.

The Mare  Nancy's Picks  Mary Gaitskill


The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House by Kate MortonThis is a nice long (598 pages) saga from the author of previous favorites The Secret Keeper and The House at Riverton.

The book alternates between post war 1933 and the present, and is set in London and rural Cornwall. It is categorized as fiction, though much of the story is centered on solving mysteries.

In the contemporary story, Detective Inspector Sadie Sparrow has been hard at work investigating the case of a young London girl found abandoned, her mother missing. Sadie breaks two cardinal rules of police work - she gets too close to the child’s grandmother, and she talks to the press, saying the case was closed prematurely. Forced to take a month off work for her transgressions, Sadie goes to stay with her grandfather Bertie in Cornwell. There, she stumbles upon an unsolved mystery from 1933. The child of a prominent family went missing, shortly after the nanny was fired. On that same night, a dear friend of the family was found dead, and the gardener abruptly departed. With help from a heroic librarian, a celebrated local mystery author (the last living member of that prominent family), Sadie starts putting the pieces together.

Lush descriptions of the countryside, interesting relationships, beautiful old country houses and mysteries waiting to be solved keep you turning the pages. Throw in some clandestine romance, secret staircases, letters kept in triplicate, and you’ve got a great read. Everything is tied up neatly at the end, which will make readers happy.

The Lake House  Kate Morton


Barbara the Slut and Other People By Lauren Holmes

barbara the slutBarbara the Slut and Other People is a debut collection of 10 stories that capture the angst of adolescence and the passion and betrayal that often characterize young love. In the title story, Barbara is a smart, sensitive high school senior. Her grades are excellent, and she is awaiting acceptance into Princeton University. She is a loving and responsible sister to her autistic brother.

But Barbara also has a pair of qualities that other girls her age do not have—confidence in her body and a discerning eye when it comes to boys. She enjoys sex and has a one-time rule to avoid emotional entanglements. And for all this she is envied, ridiculed, and verbally abused. Author Lauren Holmes uses this tale to highlight the pertinent issue of bullying and its impact on young lives.

Another story, “Desert Hearts,” is about a recently graduated lawyer who moves to San Francisco with her fiancé. Brenda is ambivalent about her career choices. Having just passed the California Bar Exam, she says she “doesn’t have the heart” to join a law firm. Instead, she gets a job in a sex toy shop and pretends to be a lesbian. Despite stereotypic jokes, some parts of the story are laugh-out-loud funny. The humor camouflages the loneliness of the main character and the degree to which she is isolated and misunderstood by the man she loves.

Similarly, “My Humans” looks at another unraveling relationship through the eyes of a shelter dog named “Princess.” The unquestioning devotion of a dog is juxtaposed with the infidelity of her human counterparts. And the dog’s fondness for messiness mirrors life itself.

Sara's Picks  Lauren Holmes  Barbara the Slut and Other People


The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

story hourMain character Lakshmi, an Indian immigrant, is despondent about her marriage and the work she is forced to do in her husband's grocery store. A desperate suicide attempt brings her to the hospital and to the attention of Dr. Maggie Bose, a psychologist. Maggie is African American, and, like Lakshmi, is married to an Indian man.

Moved by her patient's plight, Maggie agrees to provide therapy privately, and at no cost. The doctor/patient line becomes blurred, and perhaps unethical. Each woman has her secrets, which the author reveals only toward the end of the book, and to great effect.

The narrative point of view switches back and forth between Maggie and Lakshmi. Lakshmi's story is told in broken English - in sharp contrast to Maggie's educated voice.

This is a good read (by the author of The Space Between Us) that will keep you thinking long after you have finished it. 

Thrity Umrigar  The Story Hour  Nancy Buehler