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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sophie Kinsella's 'Number' leads the weekend book picks

What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY's picks for book lovers including chick-lit hilarity from Sophie Kinsella, a sympathetic take on crown-wrecker Wallis Simpson, and a multi-generational immigrant saga.

I've Got Your Number| Sophie Kinsella; The Dial Press; 448 pp.; $26; fiction

Fans of Sophie Kinsella's amusing Shopaholic novels won't want to miss her latest foray into chick lit. Ditsy heroine Becky Bloomwood may have taken a shopping break, but Britain's Kinsella brings us an equally delightful funny girl in Poppy Wyatt.

Poppy is a charming if insecure physiotherapist who is engaged to Magnus, a celebrity university lecturer. After she loses her emerald engagement ring and has her cellphone stolen, Poppy stumbles upon another phone in the trash that belonged to the former assistant of Sam Roxton, a handsome exec at a consulting firm.

Complications (and humor) ensue as Poppy convinces Sam to allow her to keep the phone until she finds her ring — promising to forward his messages, Poppy-style.

USA TODAY says *** out of four. "Delivers all the usual Kinsella hallmarks — sharp insight into the current state of relationships crossed with laugh-out-loud screwball situations — but with a digital-age twist."

That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor| Anne Sebba; St. Martin's Press; 283 pp.; $27.99; non-fiction

Wallis Simpson — the American for whom Britain's king famously abdicated — is everywhere these days. In Madonna's new movie, W.E. In a new stage drama in London. And in new biographies, including That Woman by Anne Sebba, who had access to previously unexamined Simpson letters. Her fresh take on a familiar tale concludes that this wasn't the "romance of the century" — just a pathetic muddle.

USA TODAY says *** ½ out of four. "This book is clear-sighted about but relatively sympathetic to the American woman for whom King Edward VIII gave up his throne in 1936, shaking Britain and its royal family to the core."

A Good American| Alex George; Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam; 384 pp.; $25.95; fiction

In this heartfelt novel, Alex George depicts the immigrant experience — beginning in 1904 in Germany as a young couple flees to America after the girl's family discovers she is pregnant. Frederick Meisenheimer and Jette Furste end up in Missouri, where generations of the Meisenheimer family will flourish and fulfill the American dream.

USA TODAY says *** out of four. "Epic and lyrical …an honest and delightful story."

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity | Katherine Boo; Random House, 256 pp., $27; non-fiction

The hit movie Slumdog Millionaire made viewers around the world aware of the poverty and slums in Mumbai, India. In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, New Yorker staff writer Katherine Boo takes a microscope to that world, centering on a slum called Annawadi and its desperate, if resourceful, inhabitants.

USATODAY says ***1/2 out of four. "Outstanding. … Brings alive an almost unimaginably harsh world through the stories of people trying to make their way in a place few of us can imagine."

What It Was | George Pelecanos; Reagan Arthur/Back Bay, 272 pp., $9.99 paperback original; 99-cent e-book until Feb. 27, then $4.99; fiction

Here's your last chance to get What It Was, George Pelecanos' terrific new crime novel, as a 99-cent e-book. The price, good until Monday, is a steal. And for those who prefer print books, there's a $9.99 paperback. You'll get a rip-roaring introduction to Derek Strange, a young black private investigator and the hero of a number of Pelecanos' earlier novels.

USA TODAY says ***½ out of four. Pelecanos is "the best crime writer you've never read. … Buckle up for one thrilling ride. For 99 cents, you can't afford to miss it."

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