Book critics pick their favorites for Spring 2008

I’m number 134 on the Library hold list for Beginner’s Greek by James Collins — but I’m not worried. Not only does the Library have 52 copies, I know I’m in good company with 174 other Seattle readers (of which I am confident the 133 ahead of me are all super fast readers), as well as the 800-some reviewers in the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), who just included Beginner’s Greek in a list of their favorite 10 novels for spring. In fact, the NBCC’s list looks remarkably similar to my current reading stack and hold list. Here are their top three:
1. Lush Life by Richard Price
2. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
3. Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser

Beginner’s Greek, which my co-workers Susan and Hannah deemed “a male Jane Austen novel,” is tied for fourth place by the critics. Check out the list of recommended novels, nonfiction and Continue reading “Book critics pick their favorites for Spring 2008”

Cozy up with a Northwest mystery author

Alpine Traitor book coverSeattle author Mary Daheim’s “Alpine” mystery series takes place in a gorgeous town in the Cascade Mountains where newspaper editor Emma Lord solves murders and still meets her weekly deadlines. Wondering where to start with this series? Daheim brilliantly titles these in alphabetical order, starting with The Alpine Advocate, The Alpine Betrayal and so on up to the newest entry, The Alpine Traitor, just out this spring. For more cozy nights, try Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast mystery series.

But wait! What in the world is a “cozy”? My friend asked me that Continue reading “Cozy up with a Northwest mystery author”

Book review: Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood

phryne2.jpgI’ve never encountered a detective quite like Phryne (rhymes with “briny”) Fisher before – but now I’m totally smitten. Divinely elegant and stylish, this smart, confident woman turned her back on 1928 aristocracy to live independently in Australia. In one of my favorites, Murder in Montparnasse, Phryne steps in to help her friends Bert and Cec when their buddies start dying under under suspicious circumstances. She suspects that the men – and perhaps Phryne herself – unknowingly witnessed a crime in Paris ten years earlier during World War I.  Even though I was attracted to the Art Deco cover art in this series, I resisted these books for a solid year. I finally realized my reluctance is connected not to the story or the character, but to the embarrassing fact that I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce “Phryne.” Continue reading “Book review: Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood”

Cool women, hot mysteries

curse-of-the-spellmans.jpgThe one thing these mysteries have in common: smart, independent, funny and resourceful women. These are today’s detectives — a little younger and a lot hipper than many of the sleuths you’ve met in long-running mystery series (you know, those series that have initials or numbers in their titles). If you’re looking for romantic suspense, look elsewhere. These women have crimes to solve.

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
P.I. Izzy Spellman’s newest obsession is unraveling the secrets of her next door neighbor (a.k.a. Subject) whose landscape business is certainly a cover for darker intrigue. Witty and oh-so-cool in San Francisco. Get to know Izzy in The Spellman Files, the first book in the series.

Christietown by Susan Kandel
Cece Caruso, an L.A. biographer of famous mystery authors, stages a Miss Marple play that brings down the house — and the leading lady. Great authentic tie-ins to Agatha Christie (and her real-life 11-day disappearance), just like Kandel wove Dashiell Hammett and Nancy Drew’s legacy into her earlier mysteries.

Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak
Artist Wollie Shellie takes a silly job on a TV talk show called SoapDirt, and soon gets tangled in Continue reading “Cool women, hot mysteries”

Why I love ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper’

I Love You Beth Cooper book coverI Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle is seriously the funniest book I’ve read in the last two years. During his graduation night speech, Denis Cooverman, valedictorian at Buffalo Grove High School, urges his fellow classmates to leave with no regrets for the things they wanted to say but could not. Our hero pauses for dramatic effect, and then blurts out, “I love you, Beth Cooper.” Beth — voted Most Popular and Best Looking by 513 BGHS seniors – is, predictably, a cheerleader; Denis’s team of choice is debate, and for recreation he reads the Journal of Juvenile Oncology. Graduation night heads a different direction after Denis’s memorable speech, and soon Beth and her two sidekicks are meeting up with Denis and his best friend, Rich (who likes to tell people about his “female fiancée” who works at Hooter’s). The characters and plot may be a tad predictable, but I laughed so much I’m not sure I noticed.

 

The author wrote for The Simpsons and Daria (as well as The New Yorker, if the first two didn’t impress you), and his debut novel is packed with lines to savor and quote, just like an episode of The Simpsons. This is total movie material in the spirit of Dazed and Confused, and it didn’t surprise me at all to see that the book was optioned and may hit the big screen in 2009 (with Chris Columbus directing/producing and Hayden Panettiere playing Beth Cooper).