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UPDATED 03/28/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 03/28/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon |

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REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

People PICK

NON-FICTION

When Kabul fell under Taliban control in September 1996, Kamela Sediqi's life changed immediately and completely: The teen could no longer attend school; she had to wear a full-length burqa in public and be accompanied by a male relative-or risk being beaten by gangs enforcing the Taliban code of "moral purity." How she and others coped and ultimately thrived is the subject of Lemmon's transporting, enlightening book. To earn a living for herself and her five sisters, Kamela began to make and sell clothing. What began as a small concern grew into a business employing more than 34 women. Now Kamela, who met author Lemmon when the journalist was in Afghanistan researching a story, has launched a new company teaching women how to start businesses. The Dressmaker is a fascinating window on Afghan life under the Taliban and a celebration of women the world over who support their loved ones with tenacity, inventiveness and sheer guts.

Behind the Palace Doors

by Michael Farquhar |

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

HISTORY

Sex! Corruption! Murder! And for England's monarchy that was a slow day at the office. Imagine the history of the monarchy as told by the British tabloids, and you have this rollicking account of kings and queens gone wild. Royals fascinate because they exemplify what happens to humans with no checks on their power or egos. Who hasn't wanted to imprison a sanctimonious sister in a tower ("Bloody" Queen Mary to her sister Elizabeth) or marry their dead brother's wife (Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon)? More unnatural was the strangely frequent hatred of one's children; the very appearance of Queen Victoria's son Edward "made his mother shudder." But face it, it's nice to have that Divine Right thing going for you. Sure, maybe you end up with your head on a pike, but in the meantime, life's pretty swell.

Night Road

by Kristin Hannah |

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REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY

NOVEL

Inspired by the author's angst during her son's high school years, Hannah's latest follows well-off twins Mia and Zach and their friend Lexi, who grew up in foster homes. When a poor postparty decision lands all three in the hospital, the twins' overprotective mom falls apart. The plot is far-fetched at times, yet Hannah masterfully details the unraveling of a family. "Was this what love did to a person," wonders Lexi, "emptied them out until there was nothing left but need?" Night explores this question repeatedly, and the answer is often dark.

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