Friday, October 30, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Six Years

It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel that has made me want to read everything that author writes. I have found that magical connection with the books of Harlan Coben. 

For the second month in a row, I’m choosing one of his books to feature as the best book I’ve read this month in the blog hop through The Cephalopod Coffeehouse
Six Years Paper Back

Six Years is the story of Jake Fisher, a man plagued by the memory of the woman he watched marry Todd Sanderson six years before. He wonders if he missed out on the best thing that might have ever happened to him. Should he have been the one marrying Natalie?

At the time of Natalie’s marriage, he promised that he would leave her alone and never try to contact her. But when he comes across Todd Sanderson’s obituary in the paper, he decides to break that promise and contact the woman who once meant so much to him. Jake attends the funeral to pay his respects, but when he catches a glimpse of Todd’s widow (a woman to whom Todd’s been married for over ten years, apparently), Jake knows the widow is not Natalie.  

As a college professor, Jake is well-versed in the methods of research, and he begins an all-out search for the woman named Natalie. As he tries to untangle the sticky and confusing web of Natalie’s whereabouts, he finds that no one will talk to him, no one remembers him, no one saw or knows anything. Even friends with whom he and Natalie had once socialized don’t recollect ever having seen them together.

In the midst of it all, Jake finds himself entangled a dangerous game that threatens his very life—the life he lives and the life he thinks he lives. Is Natalie’s whole life a lie? Or is his?

Just like The Stranger, Six Years is a compelling page-turner. From the two books I’ve read, Coben appears to a master of the guessing game. What is going on? How did this happen? How will he get out of this?

I love it when an author weaves a tale in which I cannot figure out the answers until the end. Coben does not use plot conveniences, but he capitalizes on jaw-dropping plot twists. His characters are flawed and damaged, yet human and understandable, invoking a willingness to follow and believe them.

I loved this novel, which was recommended to me by my blog buddy and author, Stephanie Faris. She has a great list of books every month, and I always try to snag one from her list to read.

Upcoming for me this month are the following books and their accompanying blurbs from Amazon. I’ll let you know next month if one of them turns out to be my best read of the month.

The Watershed by Wilden Turk

There’s something in the water… Or so believes muck-raking journalist Owen Fisher. When he’s suddenly arrested under suspicious circumstances, he can only assume that his latest article went viral, the one in which he accused the world’s largest water company of selling tainted water. If he’s wrong, only one person’s life is over: his own. But if he’s right, the world as we know it is on the brink of collapse.

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adriran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Tell me what good books you have read this month. Then head on over and check out some of the great books on the other stops of this blog hop.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It's WRAP week!

This week, October 25-31, is the annual White Ribbon Against Pornography week. WRAP week is a gathering of national and state groups and organizations focused on bringing awareness to the harmful effects of pornography.

Begun in 1987 by Norma Norris, a Pennsylvania woman concerned about hardcore pornography being sold and distributed in her neighborhood, the initial campaign included local government involvement, big white ribbons, a motorcade, and the bulldozing of a local porn shop (purchased specifically for that purpose).

More recently, WRAP week has been observed by wearing white cause bracelets, displaying bumper stickers, distributing educational pamphlets, and participating in local events. Click HERE for a list of events to commemorate WRAP week and to learn what you can do to help. Both national and local groups are organizing all sorts of activities to educate people about the resources available for those ensnared in the bondage of pornography.

wrap magnet

*White Ribbon photo from National Center on Sexual Exploitation website

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Amnesty for Pimps?

Help Wanted. No experience required. Training provided. Minorities are encouraged. Job location: various, and may include cars, alleys, motels, and flop houses. Schedule: at the discretion of manager. Dress: whatever the client requests. For outdoor assignments: Comfortable clothing and shoes appropriate for running should be worn.  Weapons carried should be relegated to those which cannot be taken from you. Compensation: 100% of profits will be paid to manager. Potential work hazards: abuse, violence, rape, drug addiction, and/or death may occur.

Amnesty International has long been known as an organization in defense of human rights—an advocate for the vulnerable, those whose lives are at stake, and people in need of refuge. In essence, their push has been to free those enslaved by moral injustice. In an ironic twist of policy, Amnesty International is now calling for a sweeping international decriminalization of prostitution, allowing pimps free rein (and reign) and increasing the victimization of women.   
Yes, this is hard to believe, in light of Amnesty International’s long track record of good work. This movement stems from a misguided belief that legalizing the sex trade protects vulnerable people, and that prostitution is “sex work” and a legitimate occupation.

But studies show that normalizing the sex industry does not protect women and children. In fact, it only serves to increase sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. This can be seen in countries where prostitution has been legalized. Even Amsterdam has pared back their red light district. Women are not lining up to fill “sex worker” positions. In reply to this reduction of supply, young women are trafficked from Asia and Africa (where poverty dictates desperation and begets exploitation) into cities like Amsterdam and Sydney for the purpose of forced prostitution.
A recent Chicago study shows that 50% of women prostituted through escort services have been raped. 21% of women prostituting within their homes have been raped ten or more times. If these women who are prostituting voluntarily (assumedly) are raped and abused with such regularity, higher statistics may only be expected within the violent underworld of street prostitution.

Many have asked over the years why there can’t be union oversight and government regulation. Wouldn’t that curb these numbers? When a practice is entirely based on violence, abuse, and exploitation, what is there to unionize? Better rates for being raped? Cushier digs in which to be beaten and violated with foreign objects? No. This will simply force exploited women into deeper shadows of shame and allow the abuse to continue under the guise of regulation.
Although the victimized and prostituted person shouldn’t be criminalized, those who victimize and prostitute them should. The men and women who prostitute vulnerable people are often directly connected to organized crime and other illegal activities. These are not promising and enterprising young men and women with business acumen; they are traffickers, exploiters, and criminals.

One final note in address to Amnesty International’s push to decriminalize prostitution. Historically, Amnesty International has fought for the release of prisoners of war. POW torture takes many forms. One of these methods includes isolation of the prisoner while subjecting them to severe discomfort. Sometimes the prisoner is not allowed to sleep, thereby causing disorientation and anxiety. This deprivation is then tempered by the occasional treat, supplied by the captor, creating a Stockholm Syndrome-type of attachment. 

This is exactly what pimps do.

Don’t be fooled. Pimps do not deserve amnesty.

Take Action

There is something you can do.

I’m honored that one of my best friends, Lisa Thompson, is the Vice President of Education and Outreach for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. All of the information I have provided above comes directly from them. You can access their website here

As one of their many projects, NCOSE is organizing an outcry against AI’s move to decriminalize prostitution. On their website, they list several ways you can help through e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. You can check out the movement and the website here.

The only true answer to the violence and exploitation of prostitution is to abolish it.