By Lynn Schnurnberger and Janice Kaplan
NOVEL

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Sara Turner is a single mother and elementary school teacher engaged to a dreamy businessman, Bradford, who lives in an elite gated community north of Manhattan. Her best friends are a Hollywood agent turned full-time mom—an overachiever who Scotchgarded her Chanel suits while her twins were still in utero—and a Park Avenue dermatologist who sees the occasional patient between trysts with her married—and filthy rich—boyfriend. Early on, Sara's life becomes as complicated as her pals': Both her ex and Bradford's try to sabotage the engagement. And the relationship is further jeopardized by Sara's friend Berni landing her a gig on Afternoon Delight, a cooking show with a flirtatious soap stud as her cohost. Mine Are Spectacular! tells the hilarious story of how Sara and her friends maneuver malicious stepdaughters, find creative alternatives to liposuction and attend sex-toy parties without losing their dignity or sense of humor.

In the follow-up to their breakout book The Botox Diaries, authors Kaplan and Schnurnberger have crafted a novel that's so delicious readers might feel compelled to diet after devouring it. Their combination of whip-smart dialogue, spot-on metaphors and the occasional steamy bedroom scene creates a hilarious hit that gives chick lit just the kick to keep it from going stale. As Sara's girlfriend Berni might remark, Mine Are Spectacular! is better than a box of bonbons while breast-feeding.

By Jonathan Coe
NOVEL
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Jonathan Coe may be the most exciting novelist you've never heard of. The Closed Circle completes a two-novel tour de force that began with 2002's The Rotters' Club, now available in paperback. It's essential to read Rotters' first: Together the two novels follow a group of friends raised in the factory town of Birmingham, England, from school into middle age, from IRA attacks to Al Qaeda's, from first kisses to adultery and divorce, from childish hopes to fame for some but wasted potential for others.

Coe has every tool a writer can possess, as though he were a super-novelist assembled from the best parts of others. He's a very funny satirist and sometimes he's politically incendiary, but he's also an expert plotter who examines individual personalities in depth. As each carefully drawn circle closes in a series of climaxes, he reminds us that both in history and in the history of our private lives, the past has a way of playing pranks on us.

By Katherine Mosby
NOVEL

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When her dullard fiancé finally kisses her, Lavinia Gibbs, the heroine of Katherine Mosby's evocative third novel, Twilight, realizes that she cannot marry a passionless man. The broken engagement scandalizes Lavinia's wealthy New York family, who gladly finance her escape to France. Set in the 1930s, Twilight evokes the tension of the building war as a backdrop to Lavinia's search for true romance in Paris. She finds the ardent lover she has longed for in Gaston, a married man who hires her to help him sell an apartment. They plunge into an affair, replete with feverish letters and steamy rendezvous. But as their relationship progresses, so does Hitler's march into France. Lavinia refuses to return to America in spite of the increasing danger, and eventually Gaston reveals a secret that puts his life in jeopardy. While Mosby's lyrical voice creates a moody, atmospheric Paris, rich with a sense of longing, at times it also veers into romance-novel language; Lavinia and Gaston's exchanges are filled with over-the-top declarations of desire. More compelling are the glimpses of war and fascism making their way into Paris, and the depiction of Lavinia as a woman struggling to establish her own identity and rejecting the labels of wife and spinster. Mosby's Paris is dark, seductive and worth visiting.

By Mark Helprin
FICTION

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For the first several chapters Freddy and Fredericka threatens to become an inside joke for royal watchers: Freddy is a jug-eared Prince of Wales whose phone calls to his mistress are published, to the distress of Fredericka, his beautiful, shallow princess. But the novel quickly spins off into fantasy: Because of their hijinks, the royal pair are sent by the sorcerer Merlin to America to prove their worthiness to the crown. As they traverse the U.S. by hopping boxcars, working as dishwashers and impersonating dentists, the book morphs into a rollicking, heartwarming examination of the state of the nation. Working his own magic, Helprin transforms the thinly veiled satire of the monarchy into a quirky love song to the colonies.

Augustus R Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits. A clerk at Ellis Island, Augustus F. Sherman, shot evocative portraits of immigrants from 1905 to 1920. On exhibit at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum through Sept. 6, the photos are featured in a first-ever volume of Sherman's work.

LINDSAY LOHAN: My Friend Leonard. On June 21, she bought three copies at an NYC reading by author James Frey. "She showed up in photos holding my first book, A Million Little Pieces," says Frey, "so her agent called my manager and they talked about her starring in the movie." On June 22 Lohan told a reporter that in her bag she had Pieces, "My favorite book...I always keep it with me."

EVA LONGORIA: "Rules of Engagement: 100 Pages for the Single Man, by Diesel. It's the perfect dating book for men. I want to learn all their secrets!"

KIM CATTRALL: "Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far. She doesn't pull any punches."

  • Contributors:
  • Lisa Ingrassia,
  • Kyle Smith,
  • Bich Minh Nguyen,
  • Eleni Gage.