V is for Vengeance

by Sue Grafton |

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REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

MYSTERY

She wouldn't be Kinsey Millhone if she wasn't getting shot, run down or pummeled, and in this 22nd of Grafton's ever-fresh "alphabet" mysteries, the endearing, indestructible PI celebrates her 38th birthday with two shiners and a busted nose. "Sticking said nose into someone else's business" is Kinsey's bread and butter (or rather peanut butter and pickle, her fave), and she gets things rolling by busting a shoplifter while perusing Nordstrom's underwear sale. It isn't long before lingerie leads to organized crime and murder as Kinsey, in typical fashion, annoys her client, the cops and a variety of miscreants. In a poignant subplot, a marriage quietly disintegrates and a gangster falls tenderly in love.

But it's Kinsey's show, and after three decades Grafton's iconic detective remains a quirky delight. (That she's aged only six years in that time is one of her hidden talents.) With the help of McDonald's pit stops and her single no-wrinkle black dress, Kinsey is sure to keep up the good fight through W, X, Y and Z-taking punches for the little guys and keeping the bad ones at bay.

Catherine the Great

by Robert K. Massie |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

BIOGRAPHY

Historian Massie has spent the past 50 years studying the Romanov tzars who ruled the Russian Empire from 1613 to 1917. His Nicholas and Alexandra was a 1969 blockbuster; Peter the Great earned him a Pulitzer in 1981. Now Massie tackles the charismatic, enigmatic Catherine the Great, who presided over the world's largest empire for 34 years until her death in 1796. Renowned for her intellect, patronage of the arts and winning personality, Catherine ushered in the Russian Enlightenment-writing the odd opera, taking the odd lover and corresponding with Voltaire in her spare time. Dense and detailed, enriched by pages of full-color illustrations, Massie's latest will transport history lovers.

The Sisters

by Nancy Jensen |

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REVIEWED BY ANNE LESLIE

NOVEL

Mabel Fischer has devised a perfect plan for escaping from her alcoholic stepfather and saving her younger sister Bertie from his abuse. But when the plan derails after a misunderstanding on Bertie's part one fateful day in 1927, anger and pain follow, pushing Mabel and Bertie ever further apart. As the years pass, each nourishes a hidden sadness that reverberates through time as their daughters and granddaughters, "raised up on secrets," struggle with the deep-rooted consequences. "Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch," realizes Bertie's granddaughter Grace. Jensen's likable story argues for openness and forgiveness between sisters, for their own sake and for the health of their families.

LEANN RIMES

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

"It's stories of her wisdom, what she wants to pass on. I think people can find a lot of inspiration and comfort in it."

NICK OFFERMAN

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

"I liked his notion that we're suffering from too much freedom. Capitalism's been successful, but now we're on the downside of it."

KELLY RUTHERFORD

Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain

"It's about just feeling good about your- self in a spiritual way. It's wonderful; I love it."

BEAUTY AND BRAINS

Photographer Darren Tieste had shot plenty of celebs over the years, but when he set out to create The Beauty Book, he wasn't sure how many would pose for it. Once stars heard that proceeds would go toward brain cancer research, though, dozens signed on-including Scarlett Johansson as cover girl. "A good half of the people have been personally affected" by the disease, says Tieste, who lost a friend to it in 2008. The book is available at thebeautybook.org.

Descended from "a long line of anxious people," cartoonist Roz Chast reacts badly to balloons, kites, tunnels, the color yellow.... "At some point I wondered whether I actually had an aversion for every letter of the alphabet," she writes in What I Hate From A to Z. "It turns out I did."

Want to shake things up in the kitchen? Fall's best new cookbooks offer inspiration

THE FAMILY MEAL by Ferran Adria In his first book of home-cooking how-tos, culinary legend Adria-head chef at Spain's renowned elBulli restaurant-teaches kitchen basics (egg poaching, anyone?) and delivers simple, delicious recipes meant for the daily table.

LIDIA'S ITALY IN AMERICA

by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Bastianich traveled the U.S. to find the best Italian-American fare. What she found-New Orleans' muffuletta sandwiches, New York's Neapolitan-style pizza-will have your mouth watering.

MARTHA'S ENTERTAINING

by Martha Stewart

With intimate photos from her homes in Maine, East Hampton and Bedford, N.Y., the homemaking guru's latest features some of her favorite meals to share with family and friends.

MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

by Christina Tosi

Fans of New York City's trendiest sweets spot, rejoice! From her buttery, melt-in-your mouth "crack pie" to her gooey cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie (below), Momofuku Milk Bar desserts wiz Tosi is finally revealing the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink secrets behind her now-famous sugary confections.

THE FOOD52 COOKBOOK

by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs

The result of food writers Hesser and Stubbs's efforts to curate an online e-cookbook, Food52 offers recipes from readers across the country.

"Damn Good" French Toast

1 small challah loaf

3 large eggs

½ cup heavy cream

Butter and maple syrup

Cut the challah into ¾-to-1 inch slices. Whisk eggs, cream in bowl. Heat griddle to medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. butter for every two pieces; swirl butter to cover surface. Dip slice in mixture; flip and submerge again. Cook till golden on one side; flip, cook reverse. Serve with butter and syrup.

MAKE THE BREAD, BUY THE BUTTER

by Jennifer Reese

For good taste and good price, which staples should you make yourself? Reese, ex-book critic at PEOPLE'S sister publication Entertainment Weekly, clues you in.