King Peggy

by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

MEMOIR

Rags to riches is a classic American story. But for Peggielene Bartels, who went to sleep one night as a divorced, childless, 55-year-old secretary at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and woke the next morning as a king, it was her ancestral African fishing village that elevated her to royalty. When Bartels's uncle died in Otuam, Ghana (pop. 7,000), her relatives elected her his successor and summoned her home. Bartels's decision was easy. Despite working two jobs, her bills were mounting, and after her divorce she was achingly lonely: "The best part of her day was her sleep," writes coauthor Eleanor Herman, because "when she was asleep she didn't have to ... question whether her life had a purpose." So in 2008, after a cousin called to say she'd been elected, she headed for Otuam. What she found was a community lacking a bank, safe drinking water and an ambulance-things she has helped to provide-but a people with joy and determination to spare. Though choppy in places, King Peggy is a heartwarming, spirited tale that will lift readers' hearts and leave them cheering.

Forgotten Country

by Catherine Chung |

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REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

NOVEL

When their family is forced to flee Korea, 8-year-old Janie is told to keep her younger sister Hannah safe. Twenty years later their paths diverge as Janie pursues a mathematics degree to please their parents, while rebellious Hannah cuts ties and runs for the California coast. But when their cancer-stricken father returns to Korea, Janie is asked to bring Hannah home and, to do so, must confront a painful family secret. Using tales from Korean folklore, in her gorgeous debut Chung offers a heartbreaking story about sisters, family and keeping traditions alive.

Blue Monday

by Nicci French |

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REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

THRILLER

In the first installment of a new series, French introduces Frieda Klein, a buttoned-up London psychotherapist who spends her days dealing with the "pain inside other people's heads," and her insomniac nights roaming the city to clear her own. But when a patient describes a haunting fantasy that may link him to a child's abduction, Klein finds herself suddenly swept up in a police investigation that's both fast-paced and spooky. Though a bit overstuffed with underwritten characters, Monday still entertains, and it leaves readers with the promise of intriguing tales to come.

NO CHEATING, NO DYING

by Elizabeth Weil

A New York Times Magazine scribe's witty, honest exploration of her marriage and how she sought to improve it.

CRUISING ATTITUDE

by Heather Poole

A veteran flight attendant's hilarious take on what really happens behind the scenes at 35,000 feet.

BY THE IOWA SEA

by Joe Blair

One man's candid account of how the 2008 flooding of the Iowa River helped him through a midlife crisis.

TV TASTE TESTER

In her new memoir Talking with My Mouth Full, Simmons, 35, reveals how she honed her culinary chops and what it's like to eat for a living.

A BORN FOODIE

I always knew that I loved food. I went to culinary school, worked for chef Daniel Boulud and took a chance on television-the three most impactful choices I made.

LESSONS LEARNED

I used to be afraid of mixing sweet and savory, but the show has taught me that every mouthful should have a balance.

STAYING FIT

When I'm not at work, I eat simply-lots of vegetables and whole grains. And I learned to just taste on the show; I never finish my plate.

TOP BITE

I've sampled about 17,000 dishes, but the best was a chilled sunchoke soup with dashi [a type of Japanese soup stock] by season 9 contestant Paul Qui. One bite swept me away!

BACKSTAGE ANTICS

Judging can take hours. Padma makes faces at the camera, I tap dance, Tom sings-we have a lot of fun!

Pan Con Tomate

Makes: 4 servings

8 slices thickly cut country bread

4 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed

2 ripe tomatoes, quartered

Extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Toast or grill bread. Top with garlic; rub in. Grate tomatoes on a box grater, then spread pulp evenly over toast. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.