Sunday, February 14, 2016

And Then All Hell Broke Loose

Richard Engel

Based on two decades of reporting, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent’s riveting story of the Middle East revolutions, the Arab Spring, war, and terrorism seen up-close—sometimes dangerously so.

When he was just twenty-three, a recent graduate of Stanford University, Richard Engel set off to Cairo with $2,000 and dreams of being a reporter. Shortly thereafter he was working freelance for Arab news sources and got a call that a busload of Italian tourists were massacred at a Cairo museum. This is his first view of the carnage these years would pile on. Over two decades Engel has been under fire, blown out of hotel beds, taken hostage. He has watched Mubarak and Morsi in Egypt arrested and condemned, reported from Jerusalem, been through the Lebanese war, covered the whole shooting match in Iraq, interviewed Libyan rebels who toppled Gaddafi, reported from Syria as Al-Qaeda stepped in, was kidnapped in the Syrian crosscurrents of fighting. He goes into Afghanistan with the Taliban and to Iraq with ISIS. In the page-turning And Then All Hell Broke Loose, he shares his adventure tale.

Engel takes chances, though not reckless ones, keeps a level head and a sense of humor, as well as a grasp of history in the making. Reporting as NBC’s Chief-Foreign Correspondent, he reveals his unparalleled access to the major figures, the gritty soldiers, and the helpless victims in the Middle East during this watershed time. We can experience the unforgettable suffering and despair of the local populations. Engel’s vivid description is intimate and personal. Importantly, it is a succinct and authoritative account of the ever-changing currents in that dangerous land. (from Netgalley)
My Thoughts
I doubt I am the only person who is totally confused by the Middle East. Between different religious beliefs, tribal disputes and politics, it sure is an area ripe for turmoil. The little snippets of information we get on the evening news, in newspapers or online do little to help the average person understand all the dynamics involved. This book appealed to me because it is a topic I am interested in and comes from someone who has spent time in the area.
Mr. Engel has written a straightforward book based on his 20 year experience of reporting in the area. He outlines the history of the Middle East in simple terms, even though there is nothing simple about the area. His explanations provided insight into the background of the many news stories we have seen over the years. I felt the majority of the book was based on fact, with the occasional personal analysis as to how the government of the USA has failed in it’s attempt to stabilize the area. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with his analysis, I will say they made sense and comes from someone with a credible background.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Things We Keep

Sally Hepworth

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.


My Thoughts

This story is told in three voices. Anna’s, who has early onset Alzheimer’s. Eve’s, the newly hired chef/cleaning person/caretaker at Rosalind House were Anna lives. And finally, Clementine, Eve’s young daughter.

While she can still make decisions, Anna has her brother move her into an assisted living facility called Rosalind House. The one they choose has a male resident close to Anna’s age. His name is Luke. Anna and Luke make a special connection. Eve, who is fighting her own demons, sees the special bond between these two and goes against all the rules to help them be together. Clementine has the young girl ability to connect with the older residents at the home.

Is it really possible that the story of someone who has Alzheimer’s could have a happy tone? In the accomplished hands of Ms. Hepworth, this one actually does. Her characters were very likeable. I wanted good things for them, even though we know that for Anna, here memory would continue to deteriorate. While certain elements of this story were certainly sad, the message I got was that love can result in some magical things.

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.