Picks and Pans Review: Great Reads

updated 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Fiction

Mothers and Sons by Colm Tóibín
This exquisitely crafted collection of short stories is spare and gripping: In his tales about desperate con men and broken families, Tóibín (The Master) brings modern Ireland into sharp focus.

The Crimson Portrait by Jodie Shields
A smart, richly textured story set in England during World War I: Catherine, an aristocratic young widow who allows her estate to be converted into a hospital for soldiers with ruined faces, finds new love—and a profound moral dilemma.

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
Here's a vampire comedy that's witty, bright and funny. In a sequel to Moore's darkly comic Bloodsucking Fiends, redheaded vixen Jody turns her squeeze into a vampire—but he has problems adjusting to the nightlife.

Parallel Play by Thomas Rayfiel The author's third novel about the perverse but likable Eve, a 27-year-old mired in adolescence, is a fast and feisty read. His prose is full of energy, even as his protagonist struggles with a new (and unpromising) marriage and a baby she didn't plan.

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