Not one of Berg’s best but still a strong tale of woe among 50-something divorcees.  The main female character, Irene, got a little tiresome after a while since I so disagreed with a lot of choices in both parenting and dealing with her ex-husband.  But, John, the ex, is a strongly written, interesting male voice in modern-day America.  I felt John had his feet planted more in the real world than Irene, especially when dealing with their 18-year-old daughter.  If you’ve read Berg (and other women’s fiction) and liked her, you will mostly like this one.

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
By Foer, Jonathan Safran
2005-04 – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
0618329706 Check Our Catalog

Winner – 2006 ALA Notable Fiction Selection
A BookPage Notable Title
Oskar Schell is an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
…More

The Usual Rules
The Usual Rules
By Maynard, Joyce
2004-02 – St. Martin’s Press
0312283695 Check Our Catalog

Thirteen-year-old Wendy lives in Brooklyn. Her world is transformed one day in September 2001–her mother goes to work that morning and doesn’t come back. Through Wendy’s eyes, readers follow her slow and terrible realization that her mother has died, and the family’s struggle to move forward with their lives. …More

The Submission The Submission
By Waldman, Amy
2011-08 – Farrar Straus Giroux
9780374271565 Check Our Catalog

Cool, eloquent, raising two fatherless children, Claire has emerged as the most visible of the widows who became a potent political force in the aftermath of the catastrophe. She longs for her husband, but she has found her mission: she sits on a jury charged with selecting a fitting memorial for the victims of the attack. …More


Terrorist Terrorist
By Updike, John
2007-05 – Ballantine Books
9780345493910 Check Our Catalog

BookPage Notable Title
Born of an Irish-American mother and an Egyptian father long since disappeared, 18-year-old Ahmad craves spiritual nurture and is drawn into an insidious plot.
…More


Ground Zero Ground Zero
By Wilson, F. Paul
2010-09 – Tor Books
9780765362797 Check Our Catalog

Jack finds the secret behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in the new dark thriller in the bestselling Repairman Jack series. …More


Absent Friends Absent Friends
By Rozan, S. J.
2008-08 – Dell Publishing Company
9780440241850 Check Our Catalog

The secrets of a group of childhood friends unravel in this haunting thriller by Edgar Award winner Rozan, set in New York in the unforgettable aftermath of September 11. …More

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Akin to titles by fellow Scandinavians Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, Norwegian author Nesbo spins an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thriller with a whole lot of punch.  The “creep” factor is high here so don’t read at bedtime…nightmares of snowmen staring through the window at you are almost guaranteed.  Telling the story of a serial killer who is hunting prey in Norway and leaving a snowman at or near the scenes of his crimes, Nesbo weaves terror and strong writing together to tell his teeth-clenching tale.  The police detective investigating, Harry Hole, becomes personally attached to the killer after Hole begins to get messages from the killer.  A solid, intense thriller by an author who will give fans of Mankell’s Wallander series and Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy a run for their money.
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Set during both WWII and in the mid-1980s, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an exceptional novel about a time in history American we are too willing to forget…the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. Set in Seattle, Hotel focuses around main character Henry, who is a young 12-year-old Chinese American boy in 1942, where much of the book takes place. During these historical chapters, he meets Keiko, a Japanese girl who is a second generation American. They both start out apprehensive of each other (Henry’s father loathes the Japanese) but eventually grow to care deeply for each other. When Keiko and her family, along with all of the other Japanese families, are rounded up and moved to camps set up by the American government, Henry is not only unhappy but confused…confused since Keiko is more American than he is. Keiko does not even speak Japanese. This contrasts with Henry’s background…where his parents speak only Chinese and they force him to speak only “his English.”
I really liked this novel. It has one of the best, most moving stories I’ve read. Ever. Now, mind you, I am not saying this is the best book I have ever read. Why? What is the difference between “best story” and “best book?” Simple: the way it was written. As I was reading Hotel, I found myself thinking about another book I had read that was also set in the Pacific Northwest about Japanese Americans: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Even though Snow takes place AFTER WWII and Hotel focuses on events that happen DURING the war, I continued to make comparisons between the two while I was reading Hotel. Comparisons to the story and the location and the romantic elements…NOT comparisons to the writing. Guterson’s novel from 1994 is filled with lyrical prose that I remember submerging myself into and not wanting to escape from…vivid from page one to the end, brilliantly bringing to life an entire setting through the pages. The love story in Snow between the main characters is enhanced by the poetic words given to describe both them and their surroundings. Jamie Ford’s writing in Hotel is good…very good. It’s just not excellent. It’s the story in Hotel that you want to savor, not the prose. Had Ford brought to Hotel the expressive, inspired language Guterson used, Hotel might just have been a true literary masterpiece. But, having a minor masterpiece is still pretty good! It’s a great, page-turning read and a story that will stay with you long after the final page.

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A true tearjerker, Night Road, is a perceptive novel on motherhood, friendship, family relationships and the devastation of loss. Jude Farraday is a super overbearing mother of twins, Mia and Zach. On the first day of high school Lexie Baill, newly adopted by her grand aunt, befriends Mia who is shy and insecure in contrast to her popular and athletic twin Zach. Jude grateful that Mia has found a friend opens her home to Lexie. The friendship flourishes.

As the action fast forwards to senior year, Jude beset by college applications and drinking parties becomes obsessive in her control of the twins’ lives. The timing for this novel is just right for Mother’s Day since the characterization of Jude relates so well to every mother who feels the pressure and concern for the happiness of her children. Adding to the tenderness of the novel Lexie and Zach fall in love.
On one tragic night on Night Road Jude’s fears are realized. In the explosion of Jude’s grief, guilt and rage lives are broken and dreams destroyed.
Setting and strong insightful characterization contribute to a realistic heartbreaking story.

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In a previous post, I spoke of all of the books I read on my iPad while on vacation. Here short reviews of the titles that I read:

Brett, Simon — The Body on the Beach – The first of Brett’s Fethering mysteries, this is a fun cozy mystery set in a smallish coastal town in the South of England. The two main characters become amateur sleuths as they investigate a body that one of them found on the beach.

Crombie, Deborah — Where Memories Lie – An intense mystery featuring Crombie’s English police team of Kincaid and James. This one involves a diamond brooch that was stolen by the Nazis and belongs to a woman who needs to get to the bottom of why people associated with the brooch are turning up dead.

Fielding, Joy — Missing Pieces – A page-turning thriller that also has its fair share of family drama. Married with teen kids, Kate is a therapist whose former flame has just reentered her life and sister is in love with a serial killer. As Kate’s home life continues to unravel, her sister makes some decisions that jeopardize all of their lives.

Keyes, Marian — Sushi for Beginners – Lisa finally gets the promotion she’s been waiting for…but it’s Dublin, Ireland…not NYC, where all the movers and shakers are. On the other hand, Ashling LOVES Dublin and her new job working for Lisa. As always with chick lit, there are several different men who add complication to the plot. LOTS of fun…as usual from Keyes.

Rendell, Ruth — Murder Being Once Done – Rendell’s Chief Inspector Wexford is at it once again…this time in London, where he’s recuperating after a heart attack. But Wexford doesn’t know the meaning of the word REST, especially when he stumbles into a case of multiple murders.

Wickham, Madeleine — The Gatecrasher – Wickham (who also writes under her pen name Sophie Kinsella) once again scores with a weightier, meatier tale than she writes as Kinsella. This time, she features a main character who crashes funerals, hoping the new widower will be wealthy. Vivid characters outshine Wickham’s plot…but still lots of fun!

Winspear, Jacqueline — A Lesson in Secrets – Winspear’s 8th outing with her continuing sleuth Maisie Dobbs, who’s a spunky young PI in England between WWI and WWII. This time, Maisie is undercover in a college when the principal is murdered. Dobbs then reveals her true identity as a detective and begins to solve the crime.

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Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver is a novel set in Grace, Arizona.  Codi and Hallie are the daughters of eccentric Doc Homer who watches them with great concern.  They are sweet and gentle girls.  Doc Homer insists they wear orthopedic shoes to their dismay. 
The stories take place during the revolution in Nicaragua.  Hallie joins the cause to help the people, not to fight, but to teach the children and to heal people.
Codi keeps looking back at her dreaded childhood.  She also has to keep track of Doc Homer who is sinking into dementia.  She doesn’t feel confident of herself.  Yet, as the story progresses, she becomes a fine teacher.  She concerns herself with the students.  Codi gives them sex education.  The class tests the nearby waters and finds the Ph is off the charts.  So they alert the town about the water problem.
The native citizens of Grace loved displays of religious objects.  “Some people had business with the saints on November 1, and went to Mass, but on November 2 ‘everybody’ had business at the graveyard.”
The intricacies of the Navaho, Apache, and other tribes are realistic. The romance is dreamy.  The writing is fantastic-a poetic journey ending in a paradise on earth.
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I was on vacation recently and read 10 books while away…8 being on my iPad. This is the first time I’ve done this. I mean I’ve tested opening the books and read one or two pages, but on the whole, it was the first true e-reading experience. And, I loved it. I used to travel with 4-5 paperback books that took up VALUABLE space in my suitcase (I have learned the hard way about packing so I pack VERY light now). Depending on the length of the trip, sometimes I would run out of books. So, I would head to local bookstore and buy some, which is money I could have been spending on crappy touristy trinkets. Also, as I finish the books, I leave them “on the road,” either in hotel libraries or I give them to fellow readers. So, basically, I’m spending money and forgoing luggage space on throwaway books. NOT ANYMORE! With my thin, lightweight iPad, I can pack on as many electronic books as I can store (thousands). And it ALWAYS takes up the same amount of space in my bag. And I have a plethora of choices…iBooks, Kindle (with the iPad app), NOOK (also with an app), Google Books, and, of course, books I downloaded from the library through both the Overdrive Media Console and the Bluefire apps. The prices of all of these books vary (the library ones were free, naturally) but spending money on books I will leave in my hotel room is even worse.

So basically, that’s my tale of love for my iPad and for e-books while on vacation.
At home, will I read books on my iPad from now on? I don’t think so…even with loving it as much as I do. Let me explain why.

First of all, there is the security factor that I have never been conscious of with books. Who cares if someone steals my $7.99 paperback…or even a library book for that matter, which might be $28.99. But, with my $499 iPad, I was constantly worried about this. I travel alone and when I was reading in a pub or restaurant, I would have to pack up my iPad, take it with me to the bathroom and then unpack it when I got back. When I used to have just a paperback on the table, I would leave it right out in the open while using the facilities.

Secondly, I was constantly afraid of getting the iPad wet. I was in England for most of my trip and we all know how English weather is…wet and damp. Yes, water is not a book’s best friend but again, a paperback getting drenched would be about an $8 hardship. Once more, the iPad’s price tag was getting in the way of my completely, unadulterated reading enjoyment.

Then, I had heard stories about how glare is a big problem for the iPad, whereas not a problem for people with non-glare “e-readers” such as the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble NOOK and the Sony Reader. When I was in St. Mark’s Square in Venice at an outdoor café and the sun was shining, I found out exactly how BIG this problem was. Quite big. I mean I could see the screen, but at times, it required a lot of adjustment. I had to increase the font size, increase the brightness of the screen and then just keep repositioning the iPad until I found the best position to see as much of the screen as possible. Suffice it to say, I didn’t sit at many outdoor cafés on sunny days.

Lastly, the most problematic experience with my iPad was when it just stopped working all of a sudden. I was away on a daytrip so I had to wait until I got back to my hotel to try charging it (even though when it conked out, it had about 60% of its charge left) to see if that brought it back to life. Nothing. So, I had to wait two days until I moved to a larger town where they had an authorized Apple service location. So, what did I do? I bought a book. A regular, ordinary, timeless, cheap book. With a book, there is never a “technical difficulty.” And if you lose it or it gets damaged, it doesn’t force you to take out a second mortgage to replace it.
Yes, the Apple service place was able to get my iPad up and running again (they had no clue what happened to it) so I was able to finish my trip reading off the iPad without having to exhaust Waterstones of their entire supply of Chick Lit and British Mysteries. But, until they devise something foolproof, while I’m at home, I will stick with a good ol’ fashioned book.

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