The Bride Will Keep Her Name

It's easy to feel like you've lost a few IQ points when reading chick lit these days. Fortunately, Jan Goldstein's The Bride Will Keep Her Name is more than just your average guilty-pleasure beach read. This surprisingly incisive, fun story goes beyond sappy-romance conventions and dips fabulously in mystery, political intrigue, spy-novel thrills, and laugh-out-loud comedy. Manhattan art gallery manager Maddison Mandelbaum is engaged to a handsome, ambitious reporter, but one week before the wedding, she gets an anonymous email linking him to the death of a call girl with Eliot Spitzer–like connections. Her fast-paced investigation to uncover whether her man is fianc‚ or fugitive has the momentum of The Da Vinci Code -- and a similar touch of unrealistic, magical convenience -- but Bride shines most in its heartfelt exploration of a deliciously intriguing question: Do we ever really know the people we love? Through uncovering layers of personal and familial secrets, Madison learns that a successful marriage has less to do with knowing absolutely who your partner is before the wedding and more with being willing to find out for the rest of your life. "That's part of the fun. And the nightmare," says her wise dad, Marty, whose relationship with her is the most poignant aspect of the book. Goldstein's accessible, unclunky writing keeps the pages turning, and his knack for tapping into the female psyche is astonishing. Raising daughters with his wife, Bonnie, he has said of writing this novel, "There's long been a twenty-eight-year-old bride inside of me just waiting to burst out." With a story this entertaining, maybe more men should get in touch with their feminine side.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).