Friday, April 04, 2014

The Counterfeit Agent by Alex Berenson (2014)

Another thriller, another gruff, but likable older guy who has retired from official duty, but ends up doing amazing things to save the world from the crazies. Looks like this is number eight in the John Wells books. 

In the beginning I was confused, as we followed numerous people in different parts of the world, and as I had not read any John Wells books, nor even caught on that it was a Wells book, I had no clue who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, as in these kinds of books both sides can get pretty violent. The final moral question is why are they doing it, besides saving their own lives.

Basically there is a group of people, funded by a mysterious source, that are tasked to set up a situation so that the U.S. feels so threatened that they would declare war on Iran. Then there is our own government and it's CIA operatives. The story of one operative was interesting as he was recruited out of college, because he had visited Istanbul, fallen in love with the city, and studied Turkish in school. (We had a student working for us that was recruited too for his foreign language skills.) Then we have our former CIA head Vinnie Duto, now a senator, who gets a call from a former contact, which starts the third group functioning. Since he is no longer CIA chief, he turns to his former employees John Wells and Ellis Shafer to look into things. And it takes off from there - actually not coming to a complete resolution, so maybe there will be a sequel to this.

Since the Middle East is of interest to me, and since the plot revolved around the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, I enjoyed getting another insight into the global politics. This thriller ride also took us to South Africa, Mexico, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Instanbul, with brief forays into Iran, France and other places as the various characters get brought into the story. Not that I need any more thriller authors on my list, but I would not mind reading more.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Out of Iraq by Sybella Wilkes (2010)

Subtitle: Refugees' Stories in Words, Painting and Music.

One of the children's books I took out from the library on Iraq. The forward is by Angelina Jolie, whose work I am respecting more and more. The author, Sybella Wilkes has been working with Iraqi refugees in Syria through the UN Refugee Agency. She bringing forth these stories of mostly young people who were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in Syria.

The stories themselves are heart wrenching, but I also love the illustrations provided by the children. I don't know if they are taught to draw in a certain way, but I kept feeling there was a style unlike most kid drawings. Then I realized what was different was that everyone was totally colored in. Looked like it could be using regular poster paint, and every background, wall, floor, grass, sky is totally covered in paint. Paintings of tanks and soldiers - meant this is what they really saw. Families packing to go  - another reality.

All of these stories continue to fill in my mosaic of understanding about Iraq, its people, religion, history. I learned of other religious groups that have been pushed out - mostly Christians and Sabean Mandeans, a peaceful religion I had never heard of.