Thursday, July 2, 2015

Loved When a Drone Strikes by Alex Castillo - Added to Personal Favorites for 2015!

The famous French diamond trader, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, gave the
 most detailed existing account of the Peacock Throne, appraising it to be
 worth countless millions in 1665.
His description doesn't even begin to capture the beauty of the artifact
 before my eyes... If it's real.
A 6 by 4-foot platform covered by an arched canopy held up by twelve
 columns embedded with emeralds. Check.
Every inch covered in gold or diamond pearl underlay. Check.
Giant peacock made of large sapphires on top of canopy. Check...
 My mouth drops as I see the centerpiece of the room. That can't be real!
Hovering above a red and gold Kashmir carpet and centered above a thick marble slab is a Mughal throne covered with glistening jewels.
Goosebumps rise on my skin. This hasn't been seen in over 200 years. I slowly walk towards the throne.
"Ms. de la Cruz, Mr. Abdali has provided you with a loupe and a UV light scanner for you to have a closer look at the Peacock Throne. They're just to the left of the throne on the marble." Another tuxedoed man with aviator sunglasses broadcasts from my right. A quick glance reveals four other men watching me from the shadows of four large golden candlesticks, holding thick candles. The only lights in the room.
Really? Getting to examine the Peacock Throne is every gemologist's dream! But is this real or a clever fake?
"We'd like to remind you that there are five highly trained men, including myself, watching every move you make in this tent."
"Understood, gentlemen." I smile in acknowledgement while quickly scanning the throne...
"Don't let the glistening jewels win you over. If this artifact is real, this could be the lost throne of Shah Jahan, the emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal..." 
"Would you mind if I butted in?" A new male voice chimes in behind us...
My blood runs cold. I am about to come face to face with the man responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans on 9/11. I am going to meet my mission's target after six years at the CIA. I am finally going to meet Farzad Abu Ghazel--Al Qaeda's number three man.

When A Drone Strikes
Alex Castillo

The author dedicates her book "To all broken people who have given everything and think they will never be whole..." I found, in roaming through Castillo's social media sites, that she and I had a similar background. If one can be "broken" worse than another, Alex has that honor. Nevertheless, there was sufficient material on matters of interest to me-- child abuse, PTSD, the Native American Nation, and the acts of a government that, combined, made this book a treasured addition to my Personal Favorites for 2015. 

Castillo writes from experience--you can tell that through not only her dangerous military scenes, but also through her personal thoughts as she faces trying to fit back into the normal life of America. Her extra burden of being forced, by law, to maintain complete secrecy about what she went through added a dimension to the story that evolved into a great empathy for the main character... At this point, since Alex uses her own name for that of the main character, I must state that I have no idea how much of the book is fiction and how much, if any, is based upon real facts, except that she was indeed, abused as a child and does suffer from PTSD... The book is also dedicated to the "real Cody" so I believe that he also has PTSD as in the book.

The story is, then, not only a love story, but a truly inspiration and authentic look into the inner life of those who live with some form of PTSD--Post Traumatic Stress Disorder... It may just be a must-read for those who have in some way been touched by this condition...

They had cared about each other in high school but it had ended badly and they went their separate ways. He, Cody Grant,  traveled across the world and came back a war hero.

She, Alex Castillo, also traveled across the world--but she traveled in secret, a CIA Agent traveling under the name Annabella de la Cruz...

de la Cruz is a world-famous gemologist which has created a cover that was flawless in getting her into locations where she never would have been admitted. Like the man who had invited her to examine what had supposedly been long lost--The Peacock Throne! That man also was going by a fictitious name and it was only through her personal involvement that she was about to meet the man who had killed her and her partner's fathers! The American was traveling with her and readers will enter their lives in both Annabella's work as a gemologist, in their dangerous military assignment, and in their growing personal relationship that was brutally stopped when those above Alex were unwilling to move in to try to save Faisal, or at least return his body back home...

Alex was deep into PTSD with both flashbacks and nightmares when she adamantly refused to stay with the CIA and take on further assignments...

"Civilian is down. Proceed."
Out of the dark night 20 men materialize
from the shadowy scrub oak and high
mountain pine forest, swiftly encircling
the towering sandstone cliff face...
Silently, they approach a sofa-size
hole at the base of the cliff with impressive
speed. Several men stand watch near
the entrance of the cave while most of
the group moves forward...
There is a coldness in the air, a deepening
of the forest shadows that makes the hair
on the back of each man's neck stand on
The time in Afghanistan is mostly presented via flashbacks--the main story, being in the present in Utah...

Slapping himself a few times to make sure he wasn't dreaming, a heavy wave of realization hit him. His sacred heritage was under threat and he was vastly outnumbered. An unknown rage and anger filled his heart and mind. These men had no right to enter the cave let alone try to pillage the sacred treasure. Treasure that had caused thousands of his people to be enslaved by the Spanish conquistadors.
"Freeze! Stand on your feet! Now!!!
...The young Ute man starts to rise slowly. He
breathes deeply and evenly. It dawns on him
that he will not be returning to college in a
few months...

It was in 2014, that Alex and Cody were brought together to work together...They were on their way to the Ute-Ouray Nation...

Currant Creek, Utah

Alex and Cody  had discovered the body of Long Hair on their way to the Currant Creek campground. They were then surprised that it was the Chief of the Ute-Ouray Tribe and his men that were there to investigate,  instead of the Sheriff. Gruffly the Chief explained that the Governor had allowed the Ute Tribe to take over the case. The young man who had been killed was the Chief's grandson.

Without interfering any more, they waited while the men mourned their loss. Cody and Alex had both known many of the men from the tribe in high school but Cody had worked summers on the reservation and gotten close to everybody there. Both individuals were struggling with their emotions. Cody with his anger; Alex with her struggle to not react to the emotions that had erupted when she saw the dead body...

All of them already knew that the body had been moved and arranged at the location where he had been found. And while the tribe members started to take pictures and investigate the site, the Captain of the men who had killed him was ordering background checks on all civilians who were there...

It was the last day of the Bear Dance and Long Hair was to be honored at sunset.  They had been asked to stay through the evening. Afterward, Cody was taken away by the Chief to a quieter place and demanded Cody's secrecy about what he was about to hear... 

Interestingly, Alex was too used to moving in secret and had previously bugged Cody! So she was able to hear what Cody had been sworn to keep to himself... And that was everything that the Chief knew about what had happened and what they knew about his grandson's murder.She wasn't surprised to hear that it had been his time for guard duty--as a Puhwah warrior--of the treasure and that they had found his campsite and his leather armband, which is never removed until death, when it is passed on to another. Everybody had always heard that there was treasure buried in the hills and that the Ute Tribe was the guardian of great riches. But nobody had ever known it was actually there--and nobody had really made a special effort to get to it...until now...
The novel is fast-paced, moving from location to location, mainly by the flashbacks experienced by Alex and Cody. But the action regarding the Ute murder becomes more and more exciting as the main thrust of the story's adventure tale comes about. I loved the situations created during this period--both for the villains and those working to bring justice...

And all this is happening while the archenemies Alex and Cody had become as they separated after high school become closer and closer. But just as things were smoothing out, Cody throws a major shock when he announces they should probably not see each other further!

Unexpected action and surprises hit readers throughout the book, so be prepared to keep on your toes to ensure you are following what is going on!
Overall, the story has such a mixture of emotions that you can't help but becoming involved with how each character is reacting to the situations they face. These are real people that you are meeting in this book. The characters are experiencing much of what many military or government agents routinely face. This presents a reality-check for all readers... about how those who enter the military service will probably feel when they return home. Even if they have missed the bodily damage that so many receive, sometimes, the mental damage is so very much worse... The reality and sensitivity, but open, honest portrayal of the two characters is a special kind of highlight for readers.

On the other hand, outside of the PTSD, the Native American response results in a unique experience that is both gratifying as well as unique! I loved the storyline for this part of the book.

Do check out this debut novel! It is well worth your consideration and certainly has my highest recommendation!


Author, When A Drone Strikes. PTSD & sexual abuse survivor who lives sober and shares simple tips on the good life. Ex-Fed. Feisty Woman.

Listening to Music - a Great Stress Reducer

Dave Sproul playing a Russ Venable "A" Native American Style flute to his photographs.

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