House Rules

by Jodi Picoult |

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

FICTION

When 18-year-old Jacob Hunt's pretty blonde tutor meets a violent death, his mother and younger brother plunge into an orgy of doubt about the teen. Could Jacob, who has both Asperger's syndrome and an obsession with forensic science, have murdered the altruistic Jess? Dubbed "freak" and "retard" by his schoolmates, Jacob flails in a culture he finds alien. After years of living on the edge with him, Emma, an advice columnist, and Theo, a cynical skateboarder, wonder whether they know him at all. But what they do know would fuel an episode of Criminal Minds: Jacob stages murder scenes as a hobby and monitors a police scanner so he can catch the action when real homicides crop up. Picoult (whose last book, My Sister's Keeper, was the basis for the 2009 film) delivers a multilayered tale enriched by her protagonists' imperfections. Theo sometimes wishes that geeky Jacob could be obliterated, and single-mom Emma—who's exquisitely aware of her failings as a parent—is too caught up in the nightmare to ask the right questions. With this sharply rendered cast, Picoult weaves a provocative story in which she explores the pain of trying to comprehend the people we love—and reminds us that the truth often travels in disguise.

Union Atlantic

by Adam Haslett |

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REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

FICTION

In Haslett's timely first novel, financier Doug Fanning is building a mansion in the posh Boston suburb where his alcoholic mother used to clean homes. The construction riles neighbor Charlotte Graves, a retired teacher whose family once owned the land Doug now occupies. Charlotte is unraveling—her dogs speak to her in philosophical rants—but so is Union Atlantic, Doug's bank. Haslett, whose skill at explaining financial regulation is as stylish as his prose, adds to the mix a sexually confused teen, Nate, who emotionally touches both Doug and Charlotte in this satisfying read.

Saving Gracie

by Carol Bradley |

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NON-FICTION

Journalist Bradley unleashes a scorching investigation of puppy mills, where dogs in filthy cages are forced to breed until they die and are sold riddled with diseases. Her narrative follows Gracie, a sickly Cavalier King Charles spaniel who has never felt grass under her feet but whose lot improves after she's adopted. Bradley boldly names villains (breeders who failed to register to escape inspections) and heroes (a Wisconsin humane society that saves 1,600 dogs). Not for the fainthearted, the book is an impassioned call to action: Adopt from pet shelters and rescue organizations.

Keeping the Feast

by Paula Butturini |

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REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSIMGER

MEMOIR

American foreign correspondents Paula Butturini and John Tagliabue met and fell in love in Rome. But just 29 days after their 1989 wedding, Tagliabue, a New York Times reporter, was wounded by sniper fire while on assignment in Romania. In this moving account of the couple's battle with his subsequent depression, Butturini describes how she turned to the familiar comforts of preparing meals to maintain control as her husband spiraled into darkness. While he seeks a cure, she discovers that the daily act of placing simple Italian dishes—pastina in chicken broth, or tomatoes stuffed with herbs and rice—on the table is "an emblem for us, of good times ... of healing in that stretch of trouble, of promise that we would once again have a future to enjoy, if only we could hang on till the fever of depression passed." Feast is a reminder that food sustains not only bodies but souls as well.

>THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT

by Cathleen Schine

A humorous, contemporary New England spin on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

BRAVA, VALENTINE

by Adriana Trigiani

Designer shoes, liaisons in posh hotels, pasta. What's not to like in part two of this planned series?

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND

by Helen Simonson

Proper retired English gentleman meets unlikely love match in a Pakistani shopkeeper.

>• Rebecca Rosen connects stars with the spirits and explains why anyone can contact the other side.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE PSYCHIC?

I was writing, and my dead grandmother took over; it's called "automatic writing." She said, "Call your dad so you know you're not making this up."

EVER HEAR FROM ANY DEAD CELEBS?

Jerry Garcia, Martin Luther King Jr. Johnny Carson comes through with humor.

HOW CAN THE REST OF US TAP INTO A SIXTH SENSE?

We're born with intuition. It's like a muscle: The more you work it, the stronger it gets.

ARE SPIRITS ALWAYS RIGHT?

No. Take your dead loved ones' opinions with a grain of salt.

>From an anthology of essays by prominent women, their best advice for the next generation

FRAN DRESCHER actress-author: "Make your voice heard. When women vote, women win."

ANDREA WONG former president and CEO of Lifetime Networks: "Treat all people, no matter who they are or what their title is, with respect and kindness."

BETSY MYERS senior Obama campaign adviser: "Don't be oversensitive. I have learned that 99 percent of life is not personal."

LETICIA VAN DE PUTTE Texas state senator: "Avoid gossip. This is not the high school prom; this is real life, and the stakes are high."

ROSARIO DAWSON actress-activist (above): "[Women] have to get past the point where we diminish one another. ... This is not something we can blame on men."

>• Inspired by a true story she reported for PEOPLE, Kristin Harmel pens a young-adult novel about a teen who learns how to cope and find solace after her father's death.

>F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. Luckily for mystery fans, this isn't true in the case of British author Dick Francis, who died Feb. 14 at age 89. He began his career as a jockey, becoming a champion in the 1953-54 season; he was even set to win the 1956 Grand National when his horse collapsed just shy of the finish line. Dusting himself off from this setback, he turned to sports newswriting, then to the first of more than 40 bestsellers, 1962's Dead Cert. Using a clean, tough style more akin to hard-boiled Americans like Raymond Chandler than to country-manor formalists like Agatha Christie, Francis depicted racing's seedy, criminal underbelly as precisely as he did its posh exterior. Other than during a six-year hiatus after his wife Mary's death in 2000, he wrote a book a year and began collaborating with his son Felix with 2007's Dead Heat. His final novel, Crossfire, is scheduled for release this year.

>FORFEIT (1969)

Sportswriter James Tyrone looks into a conspiracy to fix horse racing and then must keep himself alive.

WHIP HAND (1979)

Jockey-turned-P.I. Sid Halley asks why a stable of promising horses all start to fail when they turn 3.

COME TO GRIEF (1995)

Halley looks for the link between grisly horse mutilations, a business tycoon, a tabloid and an old friend.

>THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT

by Cathleen Schine

A humorous, contemporary New England spin on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

BRAVA, VALENTINE

by Adriana Trigiani

Designer shoes, liaisons in posh hotels, pasta. What's not to like in part two of this planned series?

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND

by Helen Simonson

Proper retired English gentleman meets unlikely love match in a Pakistani shopkeeper.

>• Rebecca Rosen connects stars with the spirits and explains why anyone can contact the other side.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE PSYCHIC?

I was writing, and my dead grandmother took over; it's called "automatic writing." She said, "Call your dad so you know you're not making this up."

EVER HEAR FROM ANY DEAD CELEBS?

Jerry Garcia, Martin Luther King Jr. Johnny Carson comes through with humor.

HOW CAN THE REST OF US TAP INTO A SIXTH SENSE?

We're born with intuition. It's like a muscle: The more you work it, the stronger it gets.

ARE SPIRITS ALWAYS RIGHT?

No. Take your dead loved ones' opinions with a grain of salt.

>From an anthology of essays by prominent women, their best advice for the next generation

FRAN DRESCHER actress-author: "Make your voice heard. When women vote, women win."

ANDREA WONG former president and CEO of Lifetime Networks: "Treat all people, no matter who they are or what their title is, with respect and kindness."

BETSY MYERS senior Obama campaign adviser: "Don't be oversensitive. I have learned that 99 percent of life is not personal."

LETICIA VAN DE PUTTE Texas state senator: "Avoid gossip. This is not the high school prom; this is real life, and the stakes are high."

ROSARIO DAWSON actress-activist (above): "[Women] have to get past the point where we diminish one another. ... This is not something we can blame on men."

>• Inspired by a true story she reported for PEOPLE, Kristin Harmel pens a young-adult novel about a teen who learns how to cope and find solace after her father's death.

>F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. Luckily for mystery fans, this isn't true in the case of British author Dick Francis, who died Feb. 14 at age 89. He began his career as a jockey, becoming a champion in the 1953-54 season; he was even set to win the 1956 Grand National when his horse collapsed just shy of the finish line. Dusting himself off from this setback, he turned to sports newswriting, then to the first of more than 40 bestsellers, 1962's Dead Cert. Using a clean, tough style more akin to hard-boiled Americans like Raymond Chandler than to country-manor formalists like Agatha Christie, Francis depicted racing's seedy, criminal underbelly as precisely as he did its posh exterior. Other than during a six-year hiatus after his wife Mary's death in 2000, he wrote a book a year and began collaborating with his son Felix with 2007's Dead Heat. His final novel, Crossfire, is scheduled for release this year.

>FORFEIT (1969)

Sportswriter James Tyrone looks into a conspiracy to fix horse racing and then must keep himself alive.

WHIP HAND (1979)

Jockey-turned-P.I. Sid Halley asks why a stable of promising horses all start to fail when they turn 3.

COME TO GRIEF (1995)

Halley looks for the link between grisly horse mutilations, a business tycoon, a tabloid and an old friend.