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RECENT BOOKS

Sharon and My Mother-In-Law by Suad Amiry (Pantheon hardback). Alternately poignant, angry and utterly hilarious, this memoir by a Westernized woman living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is based on Amiry's personal diaries and e-mails of the past 20 years. Her mix of the nasty public face of living in occupation, with its roadblocks, harassments and gunfire, and the private world of shopping in a war zone, putting up with a mother-in-law who comes to live with Amiry and her husband for safety's sake, and surviving Arab kitsch makes for a vivid portrait of a suffering but still very human land. In one of the laugh-out-loud moments, Amiry realizes her dog has a Jerusalem passport but she doesn't. Soon afterward, a whole neighborhood is destroyed. That's the kind of whiplash effect Amiry demonstrates throughout this unique and surprising book. -- Dana Renaldi

Because The Night by James Ellroy (Vintage paperback). Ellroy's success with noir crime fiction novels like L.A. Confidential, The Big Nowhere and American Tabloid has now led to his earlier work being republished. This 1986 effort is a sparkling success and a reminder of how tight a writer Ellroy used to be. Here, a brilliant homicide detective in LA searches for a cop killer and a murderer who uses a pre-Civil War revolver. That's enough said about the plot but, as is usually the case in Ellroy's stories, the bullets and barbed declarative sentences fly freely and the investigation leads to a psychotic master criminal. -- Dana Renaldi

Cliffside: Portrait of a Carolina Mill Town by Alfred Reno Bailey (Arcadia paperback). As textile mills and the towns that supported them become part of the Carolinas' past, efforts are being made to preserve their history. One of the better examples I've seen is this photo-laden portrait of Cliffside, in Rutherford County, compiled by Alfred Bailey, who also started the Web site remembercliffside.com. Bailey's approach and wit allow him to avoid the temptation to wallow in nostalgia and he lets the photos of the town, its people and its surroundings do the talking. -- John Grooms

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