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The Last Summer (of You & Me)
By Ann Brashares | [3 stars]
REVIEWED BY ALLISON LYNN
NOVEL

It's been six years since Ann Brashares's wildly popular Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series began, so it's no surprise that now, with her earliest fans leaving their teens, she's written her first novel for grown-ups. The result is an innocent take on love and loss that feels squarely aimed at keeping those fans hooked.

Set largely on New York's idyllic Fire Island, Summer tracks the precarious balance between sisters Alice, 21, and Riley, 24, after Paul, their best guy friend, becomes Alice's first lover. Complicating matters? Just as the duo settles into erotic bliss, tragedy hits.

Readers who are old enough to be going to high school reunions may find the story's simple characters and no-frills prose less than satisfying. "You're allowed to grow up," Paul tells Alice late in the story, and more mature readers may wish that the author had taken that advice herself. But former Pants aficionados who still have one foot in adolescence—and a hankering for a breezy summer read—will easily relate to Brashares's restless threesome of lost souls.

Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him
By Danielle Ganek | [3 stars]
REVIEWED BY LISA INGRASSIA
NOVEL

What do you get when you bring together a downtrodden gallery assistant, a greedy gallery owner and a collection by a new artist who is killed the night of his opening? In rookie author Ganek's case, the answer is an amusing, suspenseful novel that delights in the clichés of chick lit and the New York art scene. Ganek is slow to endow her heroine, lovelorn gallerina Mia McMurray, with a strong voice. But once Mia comes to life, her story becomes a page-turner (who knew the art world was this scandalous?) set against a refreshingly unique backdrop.

On Royalty
By Jeremy Paxman | [4 stars]
CRITIC'S CHOICE
REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN
NON-FICTION

What is it about royalty? What mass delusion allows us to revere a family based not on merit, but on some vague notion of destiny? After all, as BBC journalist Paxman points out in this riveting look at monarchy, "We do not have hereditary brain surgeons." Which is why "the guiding principle of monarchy"—that birthright alone would make people good at their job—"is also its greatest folly."

Yet Paxman sympathizes with the royal predicament. The book's most telling moment comes when the author, along with other "artistic" guests, is visiting Prince Charles at Sandringham. As a guest sidles away from Charles, the future King exclaims, "Don't go! It's happened all the time ... people moving away from me, because they don't want to be seen as sucking up." Such is life in his gilded cage. We may enjoy the royals as a soap opera, but only a few of us would really want to be one.