Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Best of Adam Sharp contains some important messages about the folly of pining after a "lost love" and also the importance of recognizing and appreciating what you have now.  Unfortunately, it takes a long time to deliver the message.

Adam Sharp works in IT in England and is an amateur musician.  In the late 1980s, he's sent to Australia for a temporary work project.  While there, he is playing piano and singing in a bar one night when a young woman comes up and begins singing with him.  It seems she is an actress who is currently appearing on a soap opera, so she's well-known to everyone in the room -- except Adam.  He eventually begins an affair with the woman, Angelina, even though she is currently married (although unhappily).

When Adam's job assignment is up, he moves on to the next assignment in Singapore, and feels like he is in no position to ask Angelina to leave her job and marriage to follow him.  Nor is he willing to give up his job and move across the world to be with her.  Eventually he begins a long-term relationship with a woman in England, Claire, and they settle down into domesticity.  But of course, he never forgets Angelina and always wonders "what could have been."

Fast forward 20 years. He and Claire have become rather bored with each other.  He works now and then on temporary IT contracts, but it's really Claire who brings in the money.  They tried to have children, but were unsuccessful and didn't want to to the IFV route.  Now Claire's company is possibly going to be purchased by a larger company, and if that happens, she will have to move to the USA, at least for a few years, to complete the transition.  Once again, Adam is unwilling to uproot himself (although there doesn't seem much to give up) and so he pretty much decides that if Claire goes to the USA, that will be the end of their relationship.

At the same time, out of the blue, he begins receiving messages online from Angelina.  In the years since their relationship she has divorced, remarried, had 3 children, and become a lawyer.  With his own relationship in something of a decline, Adam again begins to fantasize about having a relationship with Angelina.  It just so happens that she and her husband are coming to France for a vacation, and she proposes that Adam might like to join them -- for old time's sake.

The second half of the book, when Adam and Angelina reconnect, is quite long and drawn out, and veers into very unlikely territory.  Both Adam and Angelina's husband, Charlie, fall all over themselves to wait on her hand and foot.  What is really going on in Angelina's marriage is also a question that takes a long, long time to resolve.  

All in all, I found the book to be quite annoying.  Not only the complicated relationships, but the fact that Adam, wherever he goes, finds a piano and immediately sits down and starts to play and sing is quite far-fetched.  Not only that, but whoever happens to be around (friends, significant others, general strangers) beg him to continue playing and shout out requests.  Also, he knows just the right song and just the right lyrics to sing (while giving significant and meaningful glances) for any situation.  If I knew this person I would be MORTIFIED and refuse to go anywhere with him.  And why are there pianos at every bar, house and airport he visits???

While the book may contain some important messages, it takes so long to get there, with so many musical asides, that at the end I was just grateful it was over, rather than enlightened!

Disclaimer:  I received an Advanced Readers' Edition of this book in exchange for my review

Monday, March 6, 2017

Recent events in the news, including the current administration's attempts to ban travelers from certain countries and plans to build a wall on the U.S. border have highlighted attempts to keep terrorists from entering the country. The book United States of Jihad takes a look at a much more unsettling phenomenon:  the people who are already in the country who are plotting and carrying out terrorist activities.

The disturbing fact that American citizens would align themselves with terrorist organizations (either formally joining or attempting to attach their names to a cause through violent activities) is something that is difficult for most people to comprehend.  The author, a national security analyst for CNN, has come up with a number of factors that home-grown terrorists seem to share.  These include being upset by US foreign actions in Muslim countries, having a "cognitive opening" to the ideas of radical Islam (usually preceded by a personal loss or disappointment), and looking for a sense of purpose through joining a large group.

Citing examples such as Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had contact with many people who later carried out terrorist attacks, the author notes how the rise of the Internet has allowed the message of terrorist leaders and recruiters to reach more people than ever.  al-Awlaki used the Internet to distribute his lectures throughout the world, and even to chat with followers on his personal blog when he was in hiding in Yemen.  The ability of "lone wolf" type attackers to gain inspiration for their "missions" from online sources makes the job of law enforcement that much more difficult.

The book also discusses the backgrounds and progress to radicalization for people involved in some well-known attacks, such as the Fort Hood shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing.   The recruitment techniques and "path to paradise" promised to impressionable young people are detailed in the book.  The war in Syria has also provided many recruits with an easy way to join ISIS:  through Istanbul.  While attempting to join ISIS campaigns in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq proved too complicated for many, entering Syria via Turkey has been a much easier path.  Additionally, those who train with ISIS in Syria are easily able to travel back to Europe, where they may commit terrorist attacks.  Since the 9/11 attacks, however, ISIS or Taliban inspired attackers in the US have been lone wolf attackers who aspire to be a part of something big.

These individual attackers, while hard to detect and intercept, are also unlikely to be able to carry out a mass event like 9/11 again, according to the author.  As well as governmental attempts to track and stop potential terrorists in the US, several people are speaking out about the terrorists using Islam as a justification for their atrocities.  Nader Hassan, cousin of the Fort Hood shooter, and Kerry Cahill, whose father died in the attack, have joined forces at the Nawal Foundation to denounce violence and terrorist.  It is hoped that as they spread their message of acceptance and understanding, it will eventually drown out the voices of hate and violence.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of United States of Jihad from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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