The Light in the Ruins

by Chris Bohjalian |

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REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

Returning to the topic of war, bestselling novelist Bohjalian tells a powerful story about a noble Tuscan family that becomes involved with the Nazis, a murder 11 years afterward, and the crime's investigation by Serafina Bettini, a former partisan fighter and Florence's only female polizia. The book begins with the grisly slaying of young mother Francesca Rosati, as recounted by the actual killer—identity unknown—who promises more Rosati murders. The sense of terror is sustained as the narrative shifts back and forth between 1955 and 1943-44 and the Rosati family attempts to navigate Italy's uncomfortable alliance with Hitler under Mussolini. Underscoring the inescapable tragedy of violent conflict are the painful memories that haunt Bettini, who was disfigured in battle. Beautifully structured, written with restrained intensity and suspenseful to the end, this is both a satisfying mystery and a gut-wrenching account of moral dilemma in a time of mortal struggle.

People

PICK

Kiss Me First

by Lottie Moggach |

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REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

THRILLER

Leila is a reclusive computer nerd with no friends, a ratty London flat and negligible insight into the strange ways of the world. After her mum dies she becomes obsessed with a philosophical discussion website run by the charismatic Adrian Dervish, who soon makes an audacious proposition: Would Leila agree to maintain the online identity of Tess, an unstable woman desperate to kill herself and keep the death secret? Leila accepts and researches Tess with über-rational zeal, but, as Moggach's debut chillingly demonstrates, the virtual world is scant protection from messy, utterly human emotions.

The Lemon Orchard

by Luanne Rice |

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REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL

Julia, wealthy and educated, has been mourning her teen daughter's suicide for years when she's asked to house-sit at her relatives' citrus grove in Malibu. There she hits it off with Roberto, the undocumented immigrant who manages the estate and who's nursing a similar wound. During his first attempt to cross the border, he was separated from his young daughter. There's a whiff of the noble savage about Roberto, the hunky Mexican who unfreezes Julia's heart. But the setting is entrancing, and it's satisfying to watch Julia awaken to a challenge: Even if she can't bring her own child back, perhaps she can help Roberto find out what happened to his.

The Unknowns

by Gabriel Roth |

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REVIEWED BY ANDREW ABRAHAMS

NOVEL

Flush with millions after selling his dot-com startup, geeky man-child Eric spends his days surfing the Web and dreaming up ways to meet women. Then along comes Maya, a smart, no-nonsense reporter. As their passionate affair progresses and Eric gets her to open up about a painful chapter in her childhood, his prying begins to threaten their relationship. Smart, funny and emotionally layered, Roth's debut explores the eternal struggle between intimacy and autonomy.

Fin & Lady

by Cathleen Schine |

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NOVEL

Auntie Mame gets an affectionate '60s makeover in this droll novel from Schine (The Three Weissmans of Westport). Orphaned at 11, farm boy Fin is taken in by his eccentric Greenwich Village-dwelling half-sister Lady, who charges him with finding her a husband - a quest with a hefty price tag. Schine's writing sparkles, and her finale proves as unexpected and luminous as love itself.

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

THE CHAPERONE

by Laura Moriarty

Hired to watch over 15-year-old Louise Brooks, the future silent-film star, the heroine of this charming novel finds she's taken on a handful.

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS

by M.L. Stedman

The seductive story of a lost baby, a desperate childless couple and the repercussions after their lives intersect.

ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO

by Jonathan Tropper

From the author of This Is Where I Leave You, a poignant, funny tale about a has-been drummer and his life-altering choice.

by Kate Christensen [4 Stars]

MEMOIR

After publishing six novels, Christensen (The Great Man) turned her literary attention to food—first in a blog and now in this poignant, delicious first memoir. Starting with her unconventional '60s Berkeley childhood, she plumbs the emotional origins and pleasures of hunger and taste and shares recipes that sustained her through the years: refried bean burritos when she was a starving student, "Bachelorette Puttanesca" when her marriage ended, chocolate-dipped strawberries when she fell in love again. It's a delightful book that leaves you hungering for more.