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     Volume 5 Issue 92 | April 28, 2006 |

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Palatable Novels


Daniel Handler
HarperCollins Publishers; April 2006

Handler, who as Lemony Snickett writes the "Series of Unfortunate Events" novels for children, returns to adult fiction with this collection of intertwining vignettes about love in all of its adverbial misery. Each piece, with an adverb for a title, focuses on young men and women negotiating the minefields of intimate relationships. People disappear, only to reappear in later stories skewering assumptions that were first developed in the earlier tales. In "Obviously," a young usher has a crush on Lila, whose boyfriend is cheating on her. In "Soundly," Lila appears in a bar, suffering from terminal cancer, having a last good time with her best friend, Allison. In "Wrongly," Allison is driving Lila's car to graduate school when she becomes involved with an unsuitable young man. The stories feature two recurring images: that of the magpie picking up glittering pieces of material and depositing them in other stories, reflecting reality at different angles, and that of a catastrophic explosion-possibly natural, possibly human-made-that destroys everything and everyone in its wake. The stories are clever, unsettling, confusing, and often brilliantly moving. The author's reputation will create public library demand.

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life
Kaavya Viswanathan
Little, Brown & Company; April 2006

It's "Legally Blond" in reversea super-serious student turns popular girl to get into Harvardcourtesy of real-life Harvard sophomore Viswanathan, making her much-touted debut. At her Harvard early admissions interview, Opal Mehta, an NRI (or "Non-Resident Indian") from suburban Woodcliff, N.J., is told that Harvard is looking for "young people who want to live and experience life." Opal, in turn, tells her extremely involved, hilariously drawn parents Amal and Meena, who come up with a plan complete with acronym: HOWGAL-How Opal Will Get a Life. It includes getting a Frederic Fekkai haircut, amassing a designer wardrobe and cracking the Haute Bitchez clique with the complete O.C. on DVD as prep. While Opal's first steps falter, she is soon trading clothes and lip gloss with the trendy elite. But disaster follows success: not only does Opal end up kissing Sean, the object of another of the Haute Bitchez' affections, but her Treo falls into the wrong hands, a la Harriet the Spy. It's all very chick lit-girl gets problem, gets Prada, gets over it-but it's a lot of fun, and Viswanathan's eye-rolling intelligence shines through on every page.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Alexander McCall Smith
Knopf Publishing Group; March 2006

The most heartening recent trend in detective fiction is the ever-gathering fame of Botswana private investigator Mma Ramotswe. Alexander McCall Smith's leisurely paced No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series stands in sharp contrast to the adrenaline overdrive of many conventional mystery thrillers, yet readers relish every new installment. The reasons for Precious Ramotswe's appeal seem mysterious, but they're actually not much different than the roots of Miss Marple's resilient fame: Whodunit fans want to share the company of companionable sleuths. In this installment of the internationally acclaimed series, Precious must cope with a strange Zebra Drive intruder, the appearance of a mysterious pumpkin, and the unexpected elopement of a motor-works employee.




Compiled by: Sanyat Sattar

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