I 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).
In The Sound of Us (by Sarah Willis), Alice Marlowe, an interpreter for the deaf, receives a phone call in the middle of the night that is clearly a wrong number. On the other end of the line is a six-year-old girl who is all alone and trying to reach her aunt. Alice knows she shouldn’t get involved, but she does anyway, and eventually she applies to be a foster parent for the little girl. It’s typical of Alice to insert herself in people’s lives this way, an inclination she struggles with in her daily work as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. I really liked this novel for the way it looks at how we communicate and connect with people. The little girl, who is not deaf, learns to finger spell and also learns a few special signs that are both a self-comforting tool and a way to talk with Alice. I also like the way that the assumptions we make about people’s levels of responsibility or parenting skills are often short sighted, and how Alice’s world changes through her relationship with this little girl and the young mother who is struggling to get on her feet. The author also gives us a glimpse into deaf culture and ASL, which is a complete language with its own syntax that is quite different from spoken or written English. Another book I enjoyed is Between, Georgia, by Joshilyn Jackson, for the way the author wove ASL and deaf culture into the story.
Both of these books come to mind now that it’s March, which is officially Disability Awareness Month. Individuals’ disabilities aren’t the focus of either book, but the characters’ stories have an added layer. Sort of like life. I also really enjoyed these four suggestions (two fiction and two nonfiction) mentioned earlier this month, right here on Shelf Talk, when my colleague Anne talked about Disability Awareness Month.
Turns out my favorite librarian in the universe will be making an appearance at our very own Green Lake Library this week. Okay, make that my favorite fictional librarian, created by Northwest author Jo Dereske, who will be reading from her popular Miss Zukas mystery series and discussing writing mysteries (she has a new series in the works) on Thursday, March 13, from 6 to 7:45 p.m.
Wilhelmina (Helma) Zukas’ independent spirit, intelligence and resourcefulness make it impossible for this librarian/sleuth to resist solving murders and setting things straight in her beloved Bellehaven (think Bellingham/Fairhaven). I love the local setting, witty style and crisp writing that comes through in each of the ten Miss Zukas mysteries (which the New York Times called “a loving sendup” to the librarian stereotype). I was delighted when Miss Zukas returned, after a three-year break, in Bookmarked to Die and Catalogue of Death. The 11th title in the series comes out in April.
Author Jo Dereske (who is also a librarian) gives us a bit of insight into Helma Zukas — as well as some excellent reading suggestions — in part one of a two-part interview:
How does this amateur detective benefit from her librarian background?
Well, as everyone knows, library folk are sharply observant, and relentless researchers. Miss Zukas understands patterns and anomalies and she does not give up. She has a book and she knows how to use it.
Those who don’t yet know Miss Zukas may have some preconceived notions based on her profession. What do you wish people knew about Helma Zukas?
When I began writing the series I wanted to respond to two things. I’d been told: “Nobody would ever publish a book about a librarian.” The other was the way librarians were viewed as dull stereotypes by the Continue reading “Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries”
I’m a sucker for Tudor tales, so you can bet I’m excited that Philippa Gregory’s wonderful novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, is coming to the big screen this coming weekend (opens on February 29). I’ve certainly read a lot about Anne Boleyn over the years, but Mary Boleyn? This piece of historical fiction was new to me. And, oh, what scandal and intrigue ensue when Anne and Mary (and their brother, George) arrive at King Henry VIII’s court! Was Mary, who was already married to one of Henry’s courtiers, really the favored sister? What scheming took place to make sure that the Howard family rose to power above the Seymours? The book is a fast-paced almost racy read, and certainly worth reading before you see the movie (starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson; my excitement knows no bounds!).
What to read next, to keep the Tudor fires burning? There’s certainly no shortage in historical fiction for this slice of history, but if you liked The Other Boleyn Girl, try these two by the same author: The Constant Princess (follows the life of Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII) and The Boleyn Inheritance (lady-in-waiting Jane Boleyn testifies against Anne of Cleves, while her family works to place Katherine Howard on the throne). Or perhaps you, like me, have a bit of a Lady Jane Grey obsession going that started way back in elementary school? Then you won’t want to miss Innocent Traitor, the first novel by respected biographer Alison Weir. It’s a bit meatier than The Other Boleyn Girl, but just as engrossing.
Let’s hear about some other Tudor novels you’ve read…
~posted by Linda J.
My book group recently had a discussion of the books that led to our best – and most memorable – discussions ever. It was nice not only to reflect on the many books we’ve read and discussed together, but also look at what makes a “good book club book.”
About five or six titles stood out, most notably The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, a novel that would be a nice companion with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (another one of our favorites). Two other all-time favorites happen to be part of Seattle Reads: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. (My book club friends will be quick to point out that we read these before they were selected by Seattle Reads. And we read Middlesex before Oprah discovered it. We like to point out things like that.) A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot and The Awakening by Kate Chopin are two we keep going back to. Memorable evenings together Continue reading “Book Group Inspiration”