Half Broke Horses

by Jeannette Walls |

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

NOVEL

Raised by turn-of-the-century homesteaders in West Texas, Lily Casey Smith, the author's grandmother, lived in a world where you had to do what you had to do. For her, that meant breaking horses, wielding a six-shooter and, at 15, riding 500 miles across the desert to take a job as a traveling schoolteacher. In a fictionalized biography written in Smith's voice, Walls—whose memoir The Glass Castle chronicled the rock-bottom deprivations of her own childhood—pays eloquent tribute to a pragmatic heroine who grew up with the West. Walls' protagonist races mustangs and trounces cowboys at the poker table; later, as a rancher's wife, she nurtures a dream of becoming a bush pilot and plunks down $5 for a flying lesson. Her family is shocked at the extravagance, but Smith explains, "I could bring in cash dusting crops and delivering mail and flying rich people around." (Instead, she staves off bankruptcy by selling hooch that she stashes under her son's crib.) Like its subject, Horses is a powerhouse—fast-moving, fearless and impossible to forget.

But Not For Long

by Michelle Wildgen |

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Set during a summer electrical blackout in a lakeside neighborhood in Madison, Wis., this atmospheric second novel by Wildgen (You're Not You) revolves around three do-gooders who live together in a moldering cooperative house devoted to sustainable food and other trendy causes. Over the course of three days with-out power, tensions erupt between newcomer Greta, a strident college fund-raiser with an alcoholic ex-husband, and her more entrenched housemates: Hal, an employee at a nonprofit food bank, and Karin, a young reporter for Dairy Now magazine. An evocative look at the green movement that includes improbably interesting passages on everything from artisanal cheese caves to the joys of hunting for morels in a damp forest, But Not for Long is also a stirring meditation on modern angst and the meaning of selflessness.

Manhood for Amateurs

by Michael Chabon |

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REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

ESSAYS

Chabon trains his twinkling novelist's eye on the mirror in these essays, finding faults but also satisfaction and cause for laughter. There are tales of modern horror (he admits he carries a "murse"—a man-purse), reckoning with the unknowable (a piece on David Foster Wallace and his suicide) and entries on the comedy of raising kids (his are Dr. Who-saturated geeks). As always, Chabon's prose acrobatics provide brainy entertainment.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

by Elna Baker |

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REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY

MEMOIR

When Baker—an adventurous Seattle native raised as a Mormon—chose NYU over Brigham Young University, her shocked mother pulled her aside. "Elna," she said, "what would you do if a lesbian tried to make out with you?" With that, Baker relocated to the city her mom had once referred to as "Babylon." She struggled to balance her free-spirit boldness with an unbreakable devotion to her faith: "While I say 'no' to certain things (sex, drugs, alcohol)," she writes, "I try to say 'yes' to everything else." The "everything else" part—wearing sexy clothes after losing 80 lbs., having her first real kiss at age 22, falling for an atheist—is the soul of this wicked-funny debut. Baker is both self-absorbed and generous, whip-smart and naïve; she apologizes for none of it. "Whatever," Baker thinks after a particularly steamy kissing session. "I'm not a saint, latter-day or otherwise." If only we all had so much faith in ourselves.

>Not quite. Walls' latest, which she calls "a true-life novel," can't match the searing intensity of Castle, her '05 memoir, but it's still a wild ride.

>NEW IN PAPERBACK

HOME SAFE

by Elizabeth Berg

In this novel exploring loss and replenishment, a writer struggles to cope after her husband's death.

SCHOOLED

by Anisha Lakhani

The author, a former teacher at an elite N.Y.C. prep school, paints a darkly comic picture of her old turf.

THE GIVEN DAY

by Dennis Lehane

Two families—one black, one white—are swept up in Boston's unrest just after World War I.

>• The Project Runway winner has three collections under his belt and a new book, Fierce Style (written with PEOPLE's Rennie Dyball).

WHAT IS FIERCE STYLE?

It's about finding your style. Mine is always fun and crazy and whimsical.

WILL "FIERCE" ALWAYS BE YOUR WATCHWORD?

It does get old. Lately I like to say, "I'm having a moment in time" or "J'adore it."

ARE YOU AND YOUR CELEB FANS CLOSE?

Every girl I've dressed is special to me: Mena Suvari, Kelly Rowland, Tori Spelling. Once you dress people you build a friendship. You see them naked, so we're going to talk!

WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO DRESS THAT YOU HAVEN'T?

I'd love to dress Lindsay Lohan. I've met her—she's nice and pretty and sweet, she's just distressed. They all are.

HOW DID YOUR OWN STYLE EVOLVE?

I went through a preppy phase, with boat shoes and stripes. It was not cute. I went through a phase with lots of sweatshirts and baggy pants. Then I went really gay with sequins and mesh. When I went to art school, that's when I got fabulous!

>Oh my gosh, this book called Sexstrology, about what your sign means sexually—what you're attracted to. I was at the park with my kids. I read it with a magazine over the front so no one would see!

KELLY RIPA

You mean like She's Just Not That Into You? No, nothing like that. Maybe Harry Potter in high school. I was reading it for extra credit and it turned into every book in the series.

—CHACE CRAWFORD

As a joke someone gave me L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology book. I had it in my purse and I thought, if this falls out it's all over for me! Then again, maybe that could only help my career.

—KATHY GRIFFIN

I listen to New Age-y self-help books on tape in the car, so sometimes you pull up to valet parking and it's blasting, like, "You are beautiful!" It's a little embarrassing.

—EMILY DESCHANEL

>• Author David Benedictus channels A.A. Milne in Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, a new authorized sequel to the classic Winnie-the-Pooh books. The best bits:

FINALLY, THERE'S A FEMALE

Righting a wrong noted by little girls everywhere, the Hundred Acre Wood is no longer boys-only (Kanga's a mom, and they don't count). Lottie the Otter (above) makes a welcome addition.

THE OLD GANG'S TRUE TO FORM

Eeyore's gloomy, Pooh's hungry, Piglet frets. His new worry: Is a thesaurus anything like a Heffalump?

THE HUMOR'S RIGHT

Milne's an impossible act to follow, but Benedictus has his moments: "When Pooh asked Owl in a whisper what an Heirloom was," he writes, "Owl said that it was a kind of kite."