The Woman Upstairs

by Claire Messud |

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REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

NOVEL

Think of her as the woman who leans out: the A student who puts others' needs first, plays by the rules in love, teaches instead of doing. In Messud's engrossing novel, she's Nora Eldridge, a single, childless, frustrated artist who quietly cringes when the father of one of her Cambridge, Mass., third graders calls her "the Gerber baby of schoolteachers." Then the exotic Shahid family comes to town, and Nora, captivated in turn by Reza, his artist mom, Sirena, and Sirena's seductive husband, sees her muted existence turn Technicolor. Through the ensuing drama, which includes one of the more shocking betrayals in recent fiction, Messud raises questions about women's still-circumscribed roles and the price of success. "To be the fittest at artistic survival," Nora decides, "requires ruthlessness." Can she muster it? "Just watch me."

People PICK

The Humanity Project

by Jean Thompson |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

"Why did Linnea have to have these people in her life, taking up space and inflicting their stupid selves on her?" Linnea, 14, is a normal dysfunctional teenager living in a normal dysfunctional family in Ohio—until she goes to school one day and a shooter holds a gun to her head. Linnea's post-traumatic breakdown is more than her mother can handle, so she's shipped off to live in California with her unfit father and the circle of eccentric characters who surround him; while there, she falls in with Conner, an older boy who breaks into houses for fun and profit. In one of many paradoxical plot twists, it is Conner who ultimately leads Linnea to a kind of redemption. National Book Award finalist Thompson (The Year We Left Home) has crafted an incisive yet tender novel—a disturbing portrait of a thoroughly modern, fractured family stumbling toward grace in difficult times.

Somebody to Love

by Kristan Higgins |

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REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

Romance novels are often stereotyped as formulaic bodice-rippers, but, as Higgins proves here, they can offer strong storytelling and a refreshing, sarcastic edge. Parker Welles is a single mom and children's book author who's forced to move to Maine when her father plunders her trust fund. Though her internal dialogues with her books' characters are silly, Parker comes across as funny and flawed, and her love affair with the studly James Cahill unfolds with genuine emotion. Her story is thoroughly entertaining.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

The Emperor's Children, a bestseller set in New York City on the eve of 9/11.

FROZEN IN TIME

by Mitchell Zuckoff

The gripping story of a WWII-era plane crash, the survivors who braved subzero conditions, and the modern-day quest for answers.

THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING

by Rod Dreher

After his sister dies, a journalist returns to the Louisiana community that embraced her and rediscovers his small-town roots.

THE GOOD NURSE

by Charles Graeber

Why did registered nurse Charlie Cullen—"The Angel of Death"—kill hundreds of hospital patients? A riveting investigation.

Actress and PEOPLE.com blogger Elisabeth Rohm opens up about her IVF.

Your memoir shares details of your infertility and IVF. Why did you write it?

I realized I could help people in similar circumstances by sharing my story.

What do you most want people to know?

Women can have it all, but it takes knowledge and preparation.

You've been in Boston filming.

How did the bombing affect you?

It's hard to understand why events like this occur, let alone explain it to a 5-year-old (my daughter Easton). We thankfully remained safe, and the city's response was incredible.

BILLY RAY CYRUS

In his new autobiography Hillbilly Heart, the country crooner tells all about his music, marriage and Miley.

Why write a book?

Somebody was going to, and I'm the only one who's walked in these shoes!

You open up about the ups and downs of your marriage to Tish, whom you nearly divorced in 2010. Any topics off-limits?

It's the opposite. There are things in there I should've taken out! My life did not go as planned ...

You also write about Miley and fiancé Liam Hemsworth.

He's a good guy with a good heart. I think they're great friends.

What's next for you?

I'm working on a pilot called Still the King. I play a retired Elvis impersonator. It's been fun.

Do you still have your teepee at home in Tennessee?

I go there to meditate or roast wieners. I use it as often as I can.