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The Road of Lost Innocence: The Story of a Cambodian Heroine (Random House Reader's Circle)
The Road of Lost Innocence: The Story of a Cambodian Heroine (Random House Reader's Circle)
by Somaly Mam
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.26
116 used & new from $0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grotesquely abused, but now brave. . . maybe not, January 9, 2013
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And so this blessed creature has given us her story, short and anything but sweet. You could read this book from cover to cover in a day or two. And you should. It's a clear description of chattel slavery in our time, thick with suffering and violence against children. Make no mistake, human trafficking plumbs the depths of depravity and misery. If only Frederick Douglass were alive today. He would be extremely proud of this particular woman, a modern-day Harriett Tubman.

Edited on June 9, 2014

Rating changed from 5 stars to 1 star. Legitimate questions regarding the veracity of Mam's autobiography were raised by Simon Marks in his cover story for Newsweek titled "Somaly Mam: The Holy Saint (and Sinner) of Sex Trafficking", May 21, 2014. It would appear that key parts of Mam's story are, at best, a composite of experiences from many women in the sex trade or, at worst, complete fabrications which seems likely given her silence on the discrepancies raised by the reporter and her resignation from the Somaly Mam Foundation.


Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
by Zainab Salbi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.92
174 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The pilot's daughter gets her wings, February 7, 2012
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Between Two Worlds is an autobiography. In part, it is also Salbi's tribute to her mother, a beautiful bird in an invisible cage. If the book teaches you anything, it's this: you can't leave the torments of your past behind. They follows you around like a shadow and only real freedom and true love can vanquish them. Freedom is the best ointment for decades spent under tyranny. Freedom is very comfortable, but it is not magical. Healing takes time. Emancipated people often need help along the road to independence. It's not easy for long-term prisoners to be fully functional outside the cell block. In that regard, Salbi has succeeded magnificently. I bought her book largely because of that success. She is the founder of Women for Women International, an organization which I support. This book was a lot more revealing than I expected. Salbi's past includes both psychological and physical abuse (including a bad first marriage). Look at the photo on the book's cover. Salbi's creamy complexion was first nourished by the lemon trees of Baghdad and then washed by a copious amount of tears as unfortunate events piled up in her adult life.

The subtitle, Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, is a bit inaccurate. Saddam was more than a shadow in her life. He was literally the house guest on her living room sofa, the hand on her shoulder, the audience at her informal piano recital, and her attentive guide to a pavilion on one of his palace lakes. Salbi's father was Saddam's personal pilot. Her knowledge of Saddam is direct or second hand from primary sources. Her descriptions of him and his methods read like a playbook for narcissistic psychopathic dictators: Take whatever you want, murder those who displease you, rape whomever you like (including vulnerable women who plead for your assistance), sow fear and distrust everywhere, use force regularly, create a personality cult, brook no refusal, keep a collection of "friends" who must respond like lap dogs to your every wish whether explicit or implied, bring war upon the earth, name infrastructure projects after yourself, forego the rule of law, employ tribal bodyguards whose loyalty is certain and reward them with sex and power, build lavish palaces, kill opposition leaders, be vainly selective with your wardrobe, violently oppress or deport any group not cut from the same cloth as you, engage in domestic spying and encourage snitching even among family members and school children, punish independent attitudes or actions no matter how small, obey no one, always follow your own inclinations, maintain a veil of dignity and respectability whenever possible, and treat your entire country as essentially your own private feeding ground.


Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home
Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home
by Laura Ling
Edition: Hardcover
37 used & new from $1.55

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big story made small, January 26, 2012
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Somewhere Inside is a well written page turner that details Laura Ling's confinement in North Korea and Lisa Ling's efforts get her out. The book is formatted with two or three page sections that alternate between Laura's story on the inside and Lisa's story on the outside. We go from capture, to confinement, to the trial, and ultimately Laura's release after a US delegation lead by former President Bill Clinton visits North Korea. That's pretty much it along with some details about family history and personal relationships. It's an interesting story, but there's no mystery here. You know how it will end.

The book, however, left me with a few questions. Was Laura's guide somehow complicit in her capture? It seemed like a set up to me. Very little info about the guide is given in the book. His hooting on the frozen river remains unexplained. (From various web source, we know that his name is Kim Seong-cheol and that he was apprehended by the Chinese authorities after Laura's capture.) And how about Laura's producer and camera man, Mitch Koss? He was nearby when she was captured along with her colleague, Euna Lee. He's an old hand at journalism with lots of field experience in hot zones. What's his take on that fateful day? Was the camera rolling when Laura was hauled across the frozen river by North Korean soldiers? Apparently his video footage was confiscated by the Chinese authorities. So what exactly did happen to him after Euna and Laura were captured? (Like Euna Lee, I guess he will have to write his own book. In any case, google "Mitch Koss" and read the speculation.)

This was a big story, but Somewhere Inside gives you the intimate Laura-and-Lisa version which makes it small and endearing. For a peek deep inside North Korea, you'll have to look elsewhere. In that regard, I recommend Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick and North of the DMZ by Andrei Lankov.


Searching for Angela Shelton, the documentary
Searching for Angela Shelton, the documentary
DVD ~ Angela Shelton
Offered by Angela Shelton
Price: $12.95
3 used & new from $12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking back, but going forward, August 11, 2011
Angela Shelton and her step-siblings were sexually molested by her father. The physical abuse is over and done but the psychological scars remain. There are plenty of films, books, and websites that strive to disseminate information about this deplorable subject to a wider audience. However, the concept behind Angela Shelton's documentary is unique and quite clever. She surveys about forty women across America with exactly the same name: Angela Shelton. The road trip, via a large motor home, is a voyage of discovery. Angela covers a lot of ground throughout the United States and through the lives of the women she meets. She finds violent relationships, thriving marriages, other cases of child abuse, rape victims, and drug addiction. Her nominal twins are white women, women of color, wealthy women, poor women, single moms, happy homemakers, successful entrepreneurs, and a variety of professionals.

Equally superb are the photos and video segments of Angela and her brother, Steve. I hope that they hold on to each other and thereby divide the pain and multiply the joy. The discussion (or confrontation) with her father out on his front porch may be rather typical of aging pedophiles. Angela does a nice job of that difficult encounter. She is calm and doesn't play for the camera, no hokey drama. It's all rather mellow. The meltdown comes later. As they say, denial is not a river in Egypt, and her father does plenty of that. For a similar experience with a soft spoken beast, watch Deliver Us from Evil. It's a documentary about Oliver O'Grady, a pedophile priest and serial child rapist. Neither O'Grady nor Angela's father ever spent a day in prison.

Now for some technical details and other observations. First of all, Angela is easy on the eyes. While in her late teens, she worked as a model in New York, Paris, and Italy. She is very attractive, with a beautiful face and a pleasant voice. Her maturity is tempered by a youthful innocence and a joyful disposition. Secondly, the production quality of the documentary is generally pretty good, with interviews, black and white photos, and telephone conversations interspersed with various travel tidbits. Sometimes it looks like a home movie, but that's part of its charm. Finally, one small beef: The audio for some of the phone conversations was too distorted or garbled to understand. Subtitles for those segments would have been helpful and are probably available on the DVD. (I watched the movie on Netflix through internet steaming.)


Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch
DVD ~ Emily Browning
Price: $3.99
196 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's like Megan Fox in Alcatraz with Sigmund Freud and a Glock 357, August 9, 2011
This review is from: Sucker Punch (DVD)
Abused, exploited, and falsely-imprisoned girls are looking for a way out of Lennox House insane asylum in lovely Brattleboro, Vermont. Baby Doll, the main character, and her svelte companions are on a quest for freedom. Simple enough. Just go with it. Let the CG fantasy worlds wash over you. Rock and roll to the rattle of machine gun fire. Watch Baby Doll get busy with her samurai sword and stainless steel handgun. Enjoy the gorgeous faces (and figures) of Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens. Again, just go with it. Don't analyze it to death. Towering samurai warriors, steampunk zombie soldiers, orcs, and terminator-type robots... all getting whacked by a contingency of young commando babes. There's a lot of visual goodness here. If you paid for and then disliked this movie, you didn't do your homework. If you think Fight Club or American Beauty are "important" films then something like Sucker Punch may be a bit too straightforward for you. To the director's credit, Sucker Punch never becomes preachy (like Avatar), and it doesn't pretend to be more than what it is (like the overblown Matrix Trilogy). The plot rambles much less than the second Transformers film (Revenge of the Fallen) and you'll care more about the main characters, especially Rocket who befriends Baby Doll and then deliberately makes the ultimate sacrifice. If you liked Underworld Evolution or The Crow you'll probably like Sucker Punch.

The movie gives you exactly what you should expect in abundance: entertainment with rich visuals, highly-stylized characters, and thumpin' beats. The film is a mixture of A Series of Unfortunate Events (unwanted orphans with inheritance), Inception (dream sequences), Resident Evil Afterlife (machine guns, zombies, sword play), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (with Baby Doll being Randle McMurphy and Sweet Pea as Chief Bromden). Or you could simply remake the Shawshank Redemption with battle mecha and Mila Kunis in lingerie with the fighting skills of Jet Li. Then add one big dragon, a snazzy bad guy named Blue, a statuesque Polish psychotherapist, and a brooding Gotham City atmosphere. Many reviews mention the sexual aspects of the film. Except for the skimpy outfits and moderate innuendo, the movie is not overtly sexual. There is an element of fan service, but no nudity or even a love scene. There is only one kiss in the movie and it's stolen. The theatrical cut is rated PG-13. Many rap and pop music videos are considerably more tawdry than this movie. I also find it odd that a few negative reviews call the movie "pornographic" without also mentioning the really disturbing bits: a little girl (Baby Doll's sister) is killed by her greedy sadistic stepfather, and later in the film two young women are shot to death at point-blank range in cold blood (no graphic details are shown, but it's still very disturbing).


The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
by Sam Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.51
641 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harris has big shoes to fill... but they are already snug, April 5, 2011
The End of Faith is solid contribution to the heated discussion about what's really ailing mankind. For starters, faith must go, especially violent faith, and any ancestral belief that stymies genuine human progress. Harris does a splendid job of roasting the antiquated ethics and militant practices of Islam. However, he is not apologetic for the ancient or modern beliefs of Christianity. Quite simply, he's had enough of religion and anything else that's faith-based. None of it is entirely benign. There are better ways to discover universal truths about how we ought to live together. Scientific methods and modern philosophical inquiry bring tremendous leverage to the study of ethics. On the vast majority of issues, we can objectively decide what is best for most people in the modern world. Clear thinking about the human condition gives us a powerful antidote against nationalism, bigotry, genocide, child abuse, and personality cults. Most human endeavors and festering conflicts could benefit from a hefty dose of real fact finding and rational debate about root causes.

I am not an optimist. I think we are more likely to return to a simple, possibly tribal, and perhaps even a subsistence way of life before we attain sustainable peace, justice, and general prosperity throughout the world. I'd settle for at least basic human rights and a modicum of comfort for everyone. In that regard, the path forward must be maintained, and books like this one keep brambles from clogging the trail. Suffice it to say, as his critics have rightly pointed out, that Sam Harris is intolerant of religion in general, however moderate it may be, and any other mumbo jumbo that keeps us mired in a backwater of ancient faith and old morality with its associated personal suffering, economic costs, and international conflicts. Casting off the brutal vestiges of the 14th century should help us build better societies with sound political systems and as much personal freedom as possible.

I was delighted to acquire Sam's book at a library sale and then discover the luminous prose within. The author has a spectacular command of the English language. The book is not entirely perfect, but his juxtaposition of things like torture and collateral damage gets you thinking. He could also have wrote something about the differences between true pacifists and conscientious objectors. That difference is less than subtle. He did, however, add a response in the afterword of the paperback edition to address concerns that his ideas about consciousness were an invitation to Eastern mysticism. In general, the book is a ripping good read. It positions Mr. Harris rather nicely in the lofty company of Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. I recommend it to anyone who stumbled upon Robert Ingersoll, Paul Kurtz, John Shelby Spong, or Michael Shermer and said... Wow, why didn't I know about this stuff 10 years ago? The End of Faith should be read along with Sam's other books. He's a young guy. I'll bet he's just warming up. Stay tuned.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2011 1:42 AM PDT


Polo Double Black by Ralph Lauren for Men, Eau De Toilette Natural Spray, 2.5 Ounce
Polo Double Black by Ralph Lauren for Men, Eau De Toilette Natural Spray, 2.5 Ounce

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Double Black Magic, February 15, 2011
Polo Double Black is a terrific cologne if you like rich base notes. It belongs to my favorite family of fragrances, the woody spicy group. The top notes are mango and pepper. The heart and soul notes include coffee, elemi, nutmeg, cardamom, vetiver, patchouli, musk, tonka bean, and juniper berry. There are no disagreeable ingredients in this master blend. The Polo website says that it's "powerful and seductive." I certainly agree with that description.

By the way, I had to Google "elemi." It's a fragrant tree resin that smells like pine and lemon. Originally from the Philippines.

If you are in the market for a good guy fragrance, I also recommend trying Polo Black and the Polo Big Pony collection. However, I would pass on the original Polo green. It doesn't do anything for me and seems a bit dated now. Also try these modern delights for men: Armani Code, Diesel Only the Brave, Chanel Allure, and Unforgivable by Sean John.


The Obamas in the White House: Reflections on Family, Faith and Leadership
The Obamas in the White House: Reflections on Family, Faith and Leadership
by From the Editors of Essence magazine
Edition: Hardcover
42 used & new from $1.92

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obama Eye Candy, November 3, 2010
This book is filled with a variety of high-quality photos that cover everything from family life to overseas trips and official business in Washington DC. All the photos are in color. Many of them are candid and feel relaxed or casual even if the event was formal. Significant depictions of tension or conflict are not included in this book. Professional photographers were obviously behind the camera work, and the editors at Essence did a fine job of selection and arrangement. My favorite photos include the president in a tie and wingtips running with a football, Michelle with the president in a tuxedo, and Obama with his daughters, Malia and Sasha. The cover photo is also very endearing. In the midst of our tumultuous political situation and economic malaise, these photos and the accompanying quotations are a good reminder that President Obama is essentially a decent, intelligent, red-blooded American with a wife and kids who has everything to gain from sensible, practical solutions to our problems. Find a place for this book on your coffee table.


No Title Available

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleu is the new black, October 6, 2010
Bleu de Chanel is a woody aromatic fragrance for men. It's fresh and modern and will be liked or loved by the vast majority of people including the men who wear it and the women who follow in its wake. There is nothing disagreeable in this delightful cocktail by master blender Jacques Polge. The notes include citrus, jasmine, nutmeg, pink pepper, grapefruit, labdanum, ginger, vetiver, mint, patchouli, sandalwood, and cedar. Like a good Béchamel sauce, the ingredients are not the whole story. The proportion, quality, and finishing touches are critical and Chanel gets them exactly right. The face of Bleu de Chanel is Gaspard Ulliel who most women find attractive with or without cologne. His fame will only grow when "La Princesse de Montpensier" is released in France in early November 2010. Gaspard also appears in the so-called "film" or advertisement promoting Bleu which was directed by none other than Martin Scorsese. Seems a bit over the top, but this is the fabled House of Chanel. I still love Allure Blanche and consider Givenchy Pour Homme to be one of the best fragrances a guy can wear. But, like Armani's Acqua di Gio, Bleu will find its way into millions of homes and waft across the landscape from Paris to Tokyo and the world will be a better place because of it. Do yourself a favor and get Bleu for your guy. It's a welcome break from Curve, Cool Water, Polo, Eternity, Joop, and Gaultier. Macy's sells a 3.4 oz bottle of Bleu for $79.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 4, 2012 5:50 AM PDT


Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders
Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders
by Anna C. Salter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.27
84 used & new from $4.13

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important issues, Good information, Excellent writing, Practical advice, October 5, 2010
In Predators, Salter explores the rugged terrain of sexual abuse and the modus operandi of criminals. The subjects she covers are disturbing but interesting to parents like me who wish to understand the world they live in and safeguard their children. Salter's writing is very readable with clear sentences and concise paragraphs that are easy to comprehend. The book covers various sexual abuse situations from fondling to viciously malevolent attacks without being overly graphic. Salter, a professional psychologist with excellent credentials, did her homework before writing Predators. She has interviewed hardened criminals and worked with their unfortunate victims.

The book is full of useful information about predators and how they operate. But some points are especially noteworthy because they are both simple and significant. Here are a few that warrant emphasis: 1) Public behavior is not indicative of private behavior. 2) People generally overestimate their ability to detect lying and deception. 3) Niceness is a choice. In other words, a nice person is not inherently good. 4) Likeability does not equal trustworthiness. Psychopaths can be very charming. 5) Most victims know their abusers. Abductions by strangers are relatively uncommon. 6) Successful pedophiles are good at grooming potential victims. They have been scheming, lying, and schmoozing children and their parents for years. 7) Deflection is easier and more effective than detection. 8) The internet is a playground for predators who effectively use anonymity and subterfuge. 9) This is not a small problem. At a minimum, 20% of girls and 10% of boys will be molested or sexually abused.

As the author makes clear, sexual abuse is like snake bite, some children die from it and some recover just fine, but it's harmful to every victim. At the very least, even the most "genteel" cases of abuse are reprehensible, illegal, entirely self-serving, psychologically harmful, and certainly not in the child's best interest. There are approximately 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. That's a very sobering statistic with profound implications. As Salter writes in her book, "The truth is hard to live with: The world is actually a pretty dicey place. A lot of bad things can happen out there, and often do." Act accordingly. Be diligent.

Don't empower predators through negligence. Attend activities with your kids, keep a cell phone handy, lock your doors and windows, use deadbolts, install a security system, and get a dog. Give children an appropriate level of freedom within a comfortable sphere of protection. Many offenders are never caught and many that are arrested have been active for years. Tell-tale signs and even reports by victims are often ignored or dismissed. So pay close attention to what your children say, how they act, changes in their behavior, and any signs that may indicate grooming. Most victimized children never report the abuse. If you have kids, download and read the 7 Steps Program on darkness2light-dot-org.

Salter does not specifically mention evolutionary psychology in her book, but she gives us a very good example of it with her explanation of positive allusions. She also does not probe the origins of severely aberrant behavior like pedophilia and sadism, but describes mechanisms that escalate it like fantasies, the psychotic pleasure of deception, and the addictive (thrilling) nature of deviant sexual behavior. Depravity, like greed, can grow without limits. I live in a major metropolitan area and regularly read local and national news websites. I have no doubt that Salter could have easily made her book considerably more horrific or downright gruesome.

This book deserves five stars based on the composition, clarity, tone, and intent. The front cover accurately describes the content. The material as presented is not overblown, slanted, sensationalized, or misrepresented. Salter writes about criminals and criminal behavior, not childhood playmates with an I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours curiosity. Consensual behavior like adult homosexuality or eating M&Ms from your girlfriend's navel is not discussed. "Consensual" implies a level of maturity and cognitive abilities that children do not have. That's why kids cannot sign for car loans, get married, vote, smoke, have a martini, or get a tattoo. They are gullible. They are also very precious.

Other good books on this subject include: Identifying Child Molesters by Carla van Dam, Protecting the Gift and The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, Predators and Child Molesters by Robin Sax, Without Conscience by Robert Hare, and The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout.


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