Friday, March 23, 2012

Beirut in Shades of Grey by Dana Kamal Mills

Beirut in Shades of Grey. Dana Kamal Mills. Ameera Publishing, LLC. 2007.  316 Pages. ISBN No 9780971545175.

Beirut in the 1980's was a time of total transformation. The phrase Dana Mills uses in this novel is one a dear friend said to me in exactly the same words, "The 'Middle-East Paradise' is gone!" Yet in this novel we have such a fine balance between the way things were before the War with Israel, a war actually fostered by the Palestinians also fighting with the Israeli, a war that became a bloodbath of senseless murder, and one that destroyed the architecture of the country. It's also a war that put the Lebanese people into two camps, those who fled the country in fear but who never lost the Lebanese soul and those who stayed hoping and praying for survival!

This is the world in which Rasha, a 25 year-old Lebanese woman, lives or perhaps it would be better to say barely copes with, constantly blocking out memories of death and the sounds of warfare and taking barbiturates to help with the thoughts and fears she can't escape. A teacher of English language in the local university, Rasha can't accept her father's domination over her life. He forces her to work to support the family and denies her the chance to pursue a higher degree. More, he monitors her every move, believing this is an acceptable life for a good Arab daughter. All that is about to change!

Traveling to Paris, France for a 10 day visit with her aunt, Rasha meets Luke Elliott, an English photojournalist. They immediately fall in love, but it's a world in which Rasha's family will never accept Luke because he quite simply is neither Muslim or Arab. Love cannot be defied, even by the terrible event that is about to happen in their world, a challenge that has the reader flipping the pages as fast as the eyes can course through the lines. It also forces Rasha and the reader to experience more than one point of war about this historic, tragic war!

Dana Kamal Mills has written a heartrending but inspiring work of historical and political fiction that portrays every facet of a war-torn land and its peoples, with just about every emotion one could possibly imagine. One can tell by reading how real this has been to the author, a necessary and vital work of fiction that more should read. A lament about war and a celebration of life and love is what you will find in these clear, powerful novel! A must read!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo

Love Thy Neighbor. Mark Gilleo. The Story Plant. March 2012. 438 pages. ISBN #: 9781611880342.

Clark Hayden is a very bright graduate student doing specialized work in robotics. But for now he has decided to move back in with his mother who is slowly beginning to demonstrate diminished ability to remember and often breaks out in strange behavior. But she's also taking multiple medications that could have the same effect on a personality, so what is one to think when she sees some strange gentlemen whom she believes to be terrorists? Even more, how is that when she calls the CIA, they really don't take her concern seriously, just as someone missed the connection before 9/11? At first Clark believes his mother is just hallucinating, but soon...

What is one to make of a Pakistani couple with a young daughter suddenly calling Clark to tell him they must return to the Middle East to take care of a dying family member? And what about the overweight neighbor who sees too much and has a very sudden heart attack, to which no one pays much attention as the man was grossly overweight to start? And what about the exploding house with flying pieces that almost hit Clark who is plant-sitting for the absent neighbors?

These acts plus many other clues lead Clark and his new found IRS Agent Liz to do more than speculate. When they find a poison substance and begin to research the disappearance of the Arab couple, everything begins to make sense far too quickly. And what can anyone really do to stop a terrorist act? Many die trying or for just being in the path of the demonic process quietly and calmly leading to an American disaster beyond one's comprehension.  

Meanwhile a carefully devised plot to carry out a dire act that will make 9/11 look like a picnic is proceeding. All are obedient to the central leader and those who aren't don't even get a chance to ponder their errors! Add to that the finding of a poison substance and the race is on for Mark and his girlfriend to find the would-be perpetrators and stop the traitorous deed planned for years and now soon to happen.

Mark Gilleo has his finger on the pulse of the two extremes of those pondering terrorism, denial or total immersion in the irrational and emotionally drastic acts stemming from those with a deliberate motivation and skills to carry out such a tragic act. Will these men and one woman be stopped in time to save mankind from one's own worst fears?

Love Thy Neighbor is an interesting, unfortunately dire story about the terrorism working to fulfill its highest goals - to kill, kill and kill some more. Important and well done, indeed, Mr. Gilleo!