Catapulted to fame with the publication of his first novel, Eragon
, when he was 19, Christopher Paolini just keeps getting bigger: Brisingr
, the third volume in his fantasy series about a teen and his blue-eyed dragon Saphira, sold 555,000 copies its first day. Now 24—and still living with the parents who home-schooled him in Paradise Valley, Mont.—Paolini talks about life as a literary phenom.
ARE YOUR BIGGEST FANS TWEEN BOYS?
A lot are, but I get mail from boys, girls, adults. I've had marriage proposals.
DO YOU WRITE EVERY DAY?
Yes. I wrote a lot of Brisingr
with an ink-dipped pen on parchment.
I loved it! It has a wonderfully archaic feel. You can write really small. My mom, who was good enough to type the pages, started to complain.
I bought a replica of a Viking sword after Eragon
, a nice air rifle for Eldest. But the biggest splurge has been, after I finished Brisingr
, my sister and I spent a week at racing school in Arizona, ramming other cars, getting shot at with paintball guns. Worth every penny.
by Somaly Mam
REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY
"You'd better know what this is," a fellow prostitute tells Mam after dolling her up with thick white makeup. "It's a brothel. Do what they say, or they'll hit you." Born in Cambodia just before Pol Pot's regime, Mam was sold into sexual slavery at 15. For six years she was raped and tortured; brothel guards dumped maggots in her mouth and hooked battery electrodes to her skin.
Mam, 38—who bought freedom with money from a generous client and founded the antiprostitution group Acting for Women in Distressing Situations in '96—considers herself lucky: "Now I see girls ... with nails hammered into their skulls." Based in Cambodia, where up to one-third of prostitutes are under 18, AFESIP has rescued more than 4,400 victims, giving them shelter and vocational training. "People ask me how I can bear to keep doing what I do," writes Mam in this inspiring memoir. "I'll tell you: It's the evil that's been done to me."
by Carolly Erickson
REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL
Another saga about Russia's Grand Duchess Anastasia? Nyet. Here it's her older, bolder sister Tatiana who survives the 1918 Bolshevik massacre of the Romanov family—and lives to tell of her complicated girlhood. Shocked at the squalor in St. Petersburg, Tatiana develops a social conscience, becomes a nurse and falls for a patient. She's an engaging heroine, grappling with her father's self-indulgence and her mother's mental illness even as the streets are exploding with communist rebels. Suspenseful and detailed, the novel captures a dramatic moment in history and will sear you with sorrow for this doomed daughter of the last tsar.
WHAT THEY'RE READING
RACHEL MCADAMS When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris. I laughed to tears reading it. The woman next to me on the plane asked if I was okay!
One of the New York Times
Sunday crossword puzzle books by Will Shortz. It's a sloooow read, but it's enhancing my lexicon.
YOKO ONO Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact in America
by Cynthia Crossen. It's about stuff you were probably suspecting but weren't sure. Read it to protect yourself.
In her new book, Today
contributor Sloan Barnett offers tips on going green for your health. Some you may not have thought of:
1 GET THE LEAD OUT OF YOUR LIPSTICK
American women consume 4 to 5 lbs. of lipstick a year from eating, drinking and licking their lips. Avoid lead by sticking with natural and organic brands.
2 CLEAR THE AIR
Indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the air outside. So skip the air fresheners and open a window.
3 BE PICKY ABOUT PLASTICS
Try glass food containers so chemicals don't become part of your dinner.
4 GO ORGANIC—WISELY
It can be expensive, so prioritize: Organic milk's most important, then meat, fruits and veggies.
Francine Prose's 15th novel stars a young girl struggling toward adulthood in the aftermath of her sister's sudden death.