Jennifer Reese

'Waiting to Exhale' gets a sequel

Eighteen ago, Terry McMillan — a little-known novelist living in Tucson, Ariz. — published her third book, a bawdy melodrama about the lives of four thirtysomething African-American women looking for Mr. Good Enough. Waiting to Exhale became a blockbuster best-seller, and in 1995 Forest Whitaker made it into a movie starring Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston. But while McMillan’s career unfolded like a fairy tale, her personal life has been less dreamy.

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Ayelet Waldman: Q&A

In 2005, the writer Ayelet Waldman became a household name after a provocative op-ed piece in The New York Times in which she unapologetically announced that she loved her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, more than she did their four children. The essay, which also referred to the couple’s ”always vital, even torrid” sex life, led to a raucous appearance on Oprah during which Waldman was practically lynched, and it inspired her best-selling essay collection, Bad Mother, published last year.

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Recipes put to the test

Well, yes — as our intrepid critic and recipe tester discovered, you can. There’s just one catch: It won’t taste exactly like your favorite franchise foods. It’ll taste even better.

KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUTS Provided you are comfortable with deep-frying, Wilbur’s recipe offers a shockingly easy substitute. The homemade doughnuts were crispier, chewier, and, according to one Krispy fan, ”10 times more delicious” than the real thing. This would be splendid news — except a clone is not supposed to be better, it is supposed to be identical.

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Top Secret Recipes Unlocked

Todd Wilbur, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked | Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur

Leaving aside for a moment the question of why you’d ever want to, is it even possible to make a Krispy Kreme doughnut at home? What about Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese? A Starbucks scone? For the last 22 years, Todd Wilbur has tried to replicate brand-name recipes using ordinary supermarket ingredients (e.g., no xanthan gum), and has published the results in a series of amusingly earnest cookbooks.

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Eating Animals

Eating Animals | Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

You can agree wholeheartedly with huge chunks of novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s sprawling and stirring new pro-vegetarian polemic, Eating Animals, and at the same time find it pompous and annoying. A few years ago, humbled by the birth of his first child (this alone causes a twinge of readerly alarm), Foer began an exhaustive investigation into the morality of eating meat.

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Nine Dragons

Michael Connelly writes fast-paced best-sellers that critics praise for their sharp characterizations and fluid storytelling. The appearance of a third Connelly title in a year would be excellent news if Nine Dragons, his latest offering, didn’t read like it had been scribbled during a red-eye from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, the two cities where the slapdash action unfolds.

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Catching Fire

Last year, Suzanne Collins published The Hunger Games, the first in a projected young-adult trilogy about Katniss Everdeen, a heroic adolescent girl who crushed on a sexy hunter. In between romantic daydreams, Katniss shot strange beasts, dodged force fields, and battled murderous zombie werewolves — usually while wearing fabulous glitzy outfits.

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The Increment

Now that the threats to the free world speak Farsi and Arabic, as David Ignatius tells us in his fitfully exciting spy novel, The Increment, James Bond has been replaced by a new generation of operatives: handsome ”Pakis and Arabs ready to kick ass for Queen and country — blowing people away while they listened to Bob Marley.” The guys in a quasi-legal British commando force known as the Increment (and their one lovely, leatherclad female colleague) would make terrific heroes for a thriller.

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Dark Places

Gillian Flynn coolly demolished the notion that little girls are made of sugar and spice in Sharp Objects, her sensuous and chilling first thriller. In Dark Places, her equally sensuous and chilling follow-up, Flynn — who was, until recently, a TV critic at EW, though our paths never crossed — has conjured up a whole new crew of feral and troubled young females. Narrator Libby Day is one of the nicer women in the book, and here’s how she introduces herself on the first page: ”I have a meanness in me, real as an organ.

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Any doubts you might (reasonably) harbor about a 534-page first novel by a physician in his 50s will be allayed in the first few pages of this marvelous book. Abraham Verghese has written two graceful memoirs — the first about his experiences with AIDS patients in Appalachia, the second about his friendship with a drug-addicted medical student — but Cutting for Stone, his wildly imaginative fictional debut, is looser, bigger, even better.

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