Friday, March 23, 2012


SOLD by Patricia McCormick
Young Adult

I read this book in three hours.  This is not to say that I am some super human speed reader, it's to say that the book is that good and a fast read due to the almost poem-like format that the author uses.

In a giving circle I attend, our very first meeting we donated our dining out dollars to a charity called Nepal Youth Foundation.  Here we learned about how NYF has rescued over 4000 girls, thus far, from indentured servitude.  In other words, these girls, some as young as 6 years old, were sold by their poverty stricken parents, to what they thought were rich people who they then would work for as maids.  In some cases, this was partially true, in that the girls worked as maid slaves working in horrible conditions, with very little, if any, money going back to their families.  Some were sold to brothels.

And this is the story of Lakshmi.  She is a thirteen year old Nepali girl who loves her family, but maybe not her gambling stepfather.  She enjoys the simple pleasures of rural life in Nepal; taking care of her pet goat, talking with her loving mother, and eyeing the boy with the slanted eyes that she has been betrothed to.  Her future looks bright ahead, full of love and babies and family.  She even is allowed to go to school.

Suddenly the monsoon season comes and devastates their rice paddy, and her stepfather announces that she must go to the city to get a job.

What happens next is not hard to guess, but the way that Patricia McCormick has written this story is powerful and heart wrenching in its innocence.

The opening pages plainly spell out what I believe so passionately.  It is not just the burdens of women in the developing world, but the power you give to women, their families, and the community when you empower women in the world.
"Let me go to the city,"  I say.  "I can work for a rich family like Gita does, and send my wages home to you."
Ama strokes my cheek, the skin of her work worn hand as rough as the tongue of a newborn goat.  "Lakshmi, my child," she says.  "You must stay in school, no matter what your stepfather says."
Lately, I want to tell her, my stepfather looks at me the same way he looks at the cucumbers I'm growing in front of our hut.  He flicks the ash from his cigarette and squints.  "You better get a good price for them."  He says.
When he looks, he sees cigarettes and rice beer, a new vest for himself.
I see a tin roof.  

RATING:  5/5

For more information about the rescuing of girls in Nepal, you can visit Maiti Nepal (where the author did many interviews for research for this book) the winner of last year's CNN Hero Award, and Nepal youth Foundation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Stories I Only Tell My Friends 
by Rob Lowe (Kindle Version)

Okay, so normally I would never have picked this book up, let alone read it.  But, a friend of mine said it was awesome, and because I work in the film business, she thought I would appreciate it on that level.

She was right.

Rob Lowe can actually write, as it turns out, and I literally could not put this book down.  Basically there are no big surprises here, but one thing that I really appreciated about this book was the way he handled certain... shall we say... more colourful areas of his life.  Rob Lowe is classy, or at least he writes his memoirs with candor and discretion.  Where some other celebs would dive right in to every meaty and pornographic detail of every aspect of their life, Rob Lowe does none of that.  Oh, he covers all of the bases, even the hugely popular video romp he had with a couple of underage girls, but he glosses over things in a way that at the same time leaves you actually wanting the meat and porn, but being relieved and kind of satisfied that he has left you not feeling dirty after you have read it.

The book starts with his childhood and moves up through to his life as it stands today.  I have to respect the fact that although he did veer off the highway of life down the road of has-been child actor a la Gary Coleman, he managed to course correct and create a great and memorable career in the drama world and, who knew, comedy of all things!

There is only one criticism I have of his book, and really it's a very minor one and actually made me kind of laugh in a way.  Okay, well maybe there was two.

The first one was that he had a tendency to end chapters with a BIG REVEAL, which started to become extremely annoying and contrived and had me eye rolling a few times.  Okay, Rob, I GET IT, you are describing something that happened, and describing the person it happened with and low-and-behold the paragraph/chapter ends with..."so, I turned to her as she walked away and said, 'Nice to meet you too, Daryl Hannah!'"  Or, after talking about how much he wanted to meet his buddy Charlie's Dad, who was a famous movie star and then fatefully one Halloween night Charlie, Emilio, Chad and Rob were out creating shinanigans and a crazy man in camouflage make-up and fatigues jumps out of the bushes yelling about how he is "on patrol tonight!  And there will be no monkey business!"  And the paragraph ends with "Hey, Lowe, you said you wanted to meet Martin Sheen?  Well, now you have."

I guess you have to read it to see what I mean, I could list about a dozen examples like this.  I'm not saying that none of these events ever happened, I'm just saying that a little variation in delivery would have been nice.

The other thing is how Rob managed to stumble across people and points in the history of the entertainment business where, although they probably did happen the way he describes, are so numerous in number and he just casually happens to be in certain places, that I have to admit it makes me want to call foul.

For example:  He was at a baseball game with his brother, who was getting harangued by another fan.  An older guy steps in to help out, and it turns out he just happens to be the head puppeteer of the Muppets.  Okay... it could happen.  But then he invites them, kids he has JUST MET, to visit the set of a "little known film" (as he is always refers to in these such situations) called The Muppet Movie.  It just so happens that he just coincidentally managed to stroll onto the set when they were filming the most famous scene in the entire film, the part where Kermit sings "The Rainbow Connection".  Once again, leaving the name of the film to THE END, like I didn't see it coming like a parade float down the #1 highway with police lights flashing.

And then the time when he was in England and Sting invited him and his wife to visit, which they did, which I think is completely believable.  And as they were hanging around at his house, Pavarotti "dropped" by and him and Sting started recording their duet "Panis Angelicus" for a new album.  Sting and Rob weep openly as Pavarotti hits the high notes.  Beautiful image.  And then after Pavarotti leaves Rob says that him and his wife Sheryl are once again wowed as Sting records "If I ever Lose My Faith in You".  Not some other obscure song from any other album, but one of his most famous ones.

There are a million of these.


But then again, I have a few stories that I no longer really share unless someone asks that involve famous people and visiting them in LA etc, that I am quite sure nobody believes, but they actually did happen exactly as I tell it.  No lie.  And I am not a celebrity.

I have to tell you there is one brilliant bit that still has me laughing.  Rob worked with Christopher Walken and writes how Christopher talks in a way that I could have never imagined doing, but it WORKS.  It goes like this...

"I saw.  Your name.  It's good.  It was on a list.  Of the cast.  I'm ...glad it was you.  I wasn't sure. If it was true."

Seeeriously!  Is that not the best?  I love Christopher Walken, like HUGE love, like if I worked with him I think I would pee every single day, kind of love.

I am going to give this a 4/5 because I think it is a great fast read that, if you knew anything about Rob Lowe in the 80's, or even if you know him from his recent work, it is a very honest look into how fame is lusted after like a porn star, and once claimed, it can have the same affect.  It is ellusive, and can disappear as quickly as it showed up, and leave you feeling used and abused and taken advantage of.  But once someone like Rob Lowe has the right perspective, life just seems all the more sweeter.  I loved the arch he painted with his words, the arch of his dream, and how now he is living the dream he never knew was his to begin with.

RATING:  4/5

Sunday, March 18, 2012

REVIEW: INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I have wanted to read this book for ages, and I am so glad that I did.  This is a perfect example of me not knowing much about a subject and then learning A LOT by reading a book about it.  In this case, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's life was a window into the muslim world from a woman's perspective;  although I know that this is not necessarily atypical of a muslim woman's life.  I get that.  But the opening of this book is just riveting.  It starts out with the violent murder of Theo Van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam.  The killer shot him numerous times, and then plunged two knives into his chest pinning a note to his victim's body.  The note threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali along with western countries, among other things.

Now THAT got my attention.

Ayaan's life was filled with spiritual questions that at times had her re-embracing Islam and at other times questioning the very existence of Allah.  Having been there in my own life, I related to her on this very basic level.  As a young adult I imagine many people question the faith that they were raised in, and some embark on their own way, and others cling to the religion of their youth.

One area that I felt I learned the most about was in female genital mutilation, which she talks about a fair amount, and being a chapter leader with Dining for Women and an activist for women's rights all over the world, I was fascinated to have an insiders look into this practice.  Many women in cultures that still practice FGM actually take it as an honor and a right of passage.  Some women hold it as proud badge that they have been cut, and worried that if they were not, that no man would ever marry them because they would be seen as "unclean".  After reading "Half the Sky", Nicholas Kristof also alluded to this fact, and wrote that in order for this practice to end, it would take many years of undoing the traditional, religious and cultural beliefs of the people with which this is an everyday occurrence.  It reminded me that when trying to fight for women's rights in other countries, that we must also look at how certain barbaric practices in our culture, may have other meanings for women in those areas.  It reminded me how complicated these issues are.  And I needed reminding.

The other thing that struck me, was how Ayaan was living a cloaked life as a muslim, she was covered, she was following all of the rules of Islam, yet at the same time was reading American romance novels and watching North American television shows.  She was seeing how women in the west had much more freedom, they talked back to their husbands, they had jobs.  This was all very appealing to her, and planted a seed that would stubbornly grow, until she could not reject the desire to be free any longer.  It made me realize that countries that suppress the female population, would feel the need to censor their lives, because once the women see how other women are living, some would be like Ayaan and want to escape to another area where they could live free, or more free.

Ayaan was severely abused by her mother, I mean like "Mommy Dearest" kind of abused.  But what is interesting is that she doesn't really realize it, I don't think.  This made me very sad for her.

The first 3/4 of the book was excellent, but once she entered school and politics, I felt it just lost its personal touch and was just a list of accomplishments and more of an autobiographical list of events.  In fact, after her first relationship, which she presented in such interesting detail, and her fears of intimacy with a man etc, when she finally did fall in love with a European, there was no mention of anything that after almost 1/2 of the book spent on her cultural differences and religious issues surrounding relationships and men.  That was frustrating.  It was just plainly put, we met, we fell in love.

Ayaan's tireless and relentless call to action to give more rights and freedoms to muslim women all over the world must be applauded, but it does not come without controversy and threat to her personal safety at all times.  She started a foundation called AHA Foundation that works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

So, all in all, I'm glad I read it.  I have no plans to read Nomad, because quite frankly, I can't imagine what else could have happened since Infidel that could fill an entire other book, but maybe I'm wrong.  Anybody out there read both books?  Is it worth reading?

Love to hear your thoughts...

RATING:  3/5