By Caroline LeavittCharlotte Triggs and LISA KAY GREISSINGER
Updated February 17, 2014 12:00 PM
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THIS STAR WON’T GO OUT

By Esther Earl |

MEMOIR

Sixteen-year-old Esther Grace Earl died of thyroid cancer in 2010, but while she lived, she inspired thousands with her warm, funny personality online and off—among them author John Green, who not only dedicated his bestseller The Fault in Our Stars to her but also wrote the foreword to this heart-tugger. A compendium of Esther’s journals, blog posts, letters, drawings and photographs, with additional sections written by friends and family, this moving read will have you reaching for the tissues and smiling with delight. Despite her illness, Esther brims with hope and plans. She’s a spirited teenager who streaks her hair purple, chills with her buddies and nurses two wishes: for “one more normal teen thing, which is kissing a boy” and “to make a difference.” Though the boy eluded her, her philanthropic dreams were realized through This Star Won’t Go Out, a foundation started by her parents for financially struggling families dealing with cancer. Stunningly alive on the page, Esther shows that sometimes the true meaning of life – helping and loving others – can be found even when bravely facing death.

–REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

SOMERSET

by Leila Meacham |

NOVEL

Meacham’s latest is a prequel to Roses, her bestselling historical novel about three east Texas families. Somerset follows those families’ beginnings as Silas Toliver and his best friend, Jeremy Warwick, head west to seek their fortunes. Along the way they pick up Henri DuMont and establish cotton, lumber and mercantile dynasties in the Texas territory. Set in the 19th century, this sprawling saga illuminates not only America’s public history but also the more private history of ordinary families—loves, betrayals and triumphs. It may look like a doorstop, but don’t let Somerset’s 607 pages scare you: It’s a vastly entertaining read.

–REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER