THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED
by Wally Lamb |

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REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL
This much is true: Oprah fave Wally Lamb's third novel offers something for everyone. Inspired by the '99 killings at Columbine High School, it has sex, violence, mystery and the overdose of heartbreak his fans expect. Teacher Caelum Quirk is out of town when the two teens open fire, but his wife—the school nurse—hears all from her hiding spot in a library cabinet. Her healing could easily carry a novel, yet Lamb veers into a meandering family saga as well. The kitchen-sink approach slows momentum and turns an unspeakable tragedy into just one more bad thing that happens to Quirk. A skilled stylist, Lamb might have been able to join the threads with a different narrator. But his thrice-married rage-prone hero is hard to like, and the dark secrets he unearths ultimately bury his wife's poignant story under a heavy blanket of melodrama.

by Ted Turner

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

MEMOIR
Turner's one fascinating fellow: media legend, America's Cup winner, ex-husband of Jane Fonda. But in his new memoir, he high-rolls from buying the Atlanta Braves to starting CNN, not really tarrying for introspection, which makes much of what he chronicles feel bloodless: his father's suicide, his sister's death, his excitement at winning the '77 America's Cup ("I enjoyed the hard work ... and the recognition"). Luckily, there are revealing sidebars from the likes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Gates, and a few neat tidbits of his own: Turner stopping a U.N. meeting to play with a monkey he spots in a tree; Turner giving Fidel Castro fishing lessons. And this: Returning to his ranch after he and Fonda divorced, he found her bedroom closet empty. "I sat down on the floor," he writes, "and cried."

by Sheri Reynolds

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

People PICK

GENRE
There's something about Kendra Lugo that's as true as butter in your grits, to borrow the lingo of the 17-year-old girl at the heart of this poignant coming-of-age novel by Virginia-based Reynolds (The Rapture of Canaan). Kendra, a lower-middle-class southern outcast whose mother is dead of cancer and whose daddy is doing time, is in emotional trouble: so uncomfortable with her sexuality that she binds her breasts in Ace bandages; so tortured by her classmates that she drinks water only at night, to avoid the girls' bathroom at school; so fearful of being homeless that she numbly kowtows to her erstwhile caretaker Aunt Glo. When a freak killing rocks the neighborhood, the teen's uncommon powers of observation surface, leading to a cathartic truce with her raggedy adoptive family and investing the brief but powerful drama with pathos, poetry and, unexpectedly, hope.

Kids' CORNER
Just in time for holiday gift-giving, inspired stories for all ages

PICTURE BOOKS
WILD BOARS COOK
by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall
The revolting, delightful stars of Meet Wild Boars return, and they are absolutely ravenous. To their massive pudding of bananas, broccoli and butter, author Rosoff adds just the right amount of dry wit.

LITTLE BEAUTY
by Anthony Browne
Inspired by the story of Koko, a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo who learned to use sign language, Browne imagines what expressive animals might tell us they want most: a true-blue friend.

HIP HOP SPEAKS TO CHILDREN
by Nikki Giovanni
Musical kids and parents alike will love this uniquely hip collection and interactive CD, edited by Grammy-nominated poet Giovanni. Bringing energy to writings by everyone from Queen Latifah to Martin Luther King Jr., it's the perfect poetic primer.

CHAPTER BOOKS

THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD
by Donna Freitas
Catholic schoolgirl Antonia Labella aims for canonization in this satisfying comedy.

THE 39 CLUES
by Rick Riordan
Orphans Amy and Dan search for clues that will lead to their beloved aunt's mysterious fortune.

THE HUNGER GAMES
by Suzanne Collins
In a post-apocalyptic America, 24 kids fight for survival on a reality-TV-like show. Only one will live.

CELEBRITY AUTHORS

SUGAR PLUM BALLERINAS: PLUM FANTASTIC
by Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Underwood and Maryn Roos
She may not be the best dancer, but Goldberg's awkward ballerina is still rave-worthy.

BIG WORDS FOR LITTLE PEOPLE
by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
This quirky yet useful vocabulary guide has enough bite-size prose and eye-popping illustrations to make even five-syllable words feel like fun.

MY LITTLE GIRL
by Tim McGraw, Tom Douglas and Julia Denos
A father of three girls, McGraw spins a touching tale about a daughter's lazy day with Dad. Includes a foreword by Faith Hill.

"To name the dead," writes Lamb, "is to confront the meaning of their lives and deaths"

FOR YOUR COFFEE TABLE

BUT THAT'S ANOTHER STORY by Amy and Joshua Greene
A retrospective of photographer Milton H. Greene's glam celeb shots, with text by his wife and son.

THE WAY I AM by Eminem
Part memoir, part scrapbook, this collection of lyrics, photos and sketches is the perfect therapy for Slim Shady withdrawal.

21 NIGHTS by Prince and Randee St. Nicholas
A photo essay of the Purple One's 21 shows in London in '07. Performance CD included.

What was it like playing Captain von Trapp in one of the world's best-loved films? "I wasn't really crazy about that character," says Plummer, 78. Or about the 1965 movie itself, which he nicknamed "S & M." He shares the memories in his new memoir, In Spite of Myself.

WHAT REALLY BOTHERED HIM "Probably due to an overabundance of nuns in the cast, there was ... at times, an atmosphere of overreverence which irritated me no end."

HOW HE BEHAVED "I'll admit it, I was ... a pampered, arrogant young bastard, spoiled by too many great theater roles."

THOUGHTS ON JULIE ANDREWS "She made the simple dance numbers appear completely natural and improvised, and that big heart of hers burst through everything she did. "

CUT! TAKE 12 ... During the gazebo scene (left), "two elusive carbons rubbing accidentally together made a sound as if someone was ... continuously farting. We dissolved in raucous laughter."

HIS SINGING "I had never sung before in my life, not even in the shower.... To stay on a long-sustained note was, for me, akin to a drunk trying to walk the straight white line."

HOW "S&M" LOOKS TO HIM NOW He saw it recently and "realized what a terrific movie it is.... Cynical old sod that I am ... I felt a sudden surge of pride that I'd been part of it."

LABOR OF LOVE by Thomas Beatie
The transgender "Pregnant Man," who recently revealed he's expecting a second child (to join Susan Juliette, now 5 months), cowrote this memoir with PEOPLE senior writer Alex Tresniowski.