Cannonball Read IV book 4: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

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Do you remember the big news story from the Summer of 2009 where a woman, kidnapped at 11 years of age, was found 18 years later  living in the backyard of her captor’s Antioch, California home? I do. I also remember when this 11 year old girl, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in Lake Tahoe in 1991. Everything about the story was horrifying. Yet the fact that she was found was great news.

Her memoir crossed my desk on Saturday at work. I checked it in and decided that I wanted to read it. I brought it home, curled up in a chair under my electric blanket and dove right in.

“As I cross the road at the bend I lose my train of thought and start to daydream about the summer…As I am walking I hear a car behind me…to my surprise the car pulls up beside me. I was so lost in thought that the unusual behavior of the driver didn’t register with me. I stop walking as he rolls down his window. He leans slightly out of his car and starts to ask me for directions. His hand shoots out of the window so fast I barely register that he has something black in his hand. I hear a crackling sound and I feel paralyzed.”

I was drawn into her story.  This particular scene really got to me. One minute she is daydreaming about summer, the next she is stunned with a stun-gun and thrown in the back of a car. It gets worse. So much worse. The abuse this person had to endure was terrible. Worse than you could imagine.

This book gave me nightmares. It made me depressed. It completely affected my mood. I wondered why I was even reading it and putting myself through this. I still am not really sure about that.

There is a small section of journal entries that are incredibly moving. She writes about the most mundane things like how she wishes she would lose weight and how she needs to watch what she eats. She also writes about how she feels resigned to her fate, being captive to her kidnapper. Yet she also had hopes and dreams. One of the journal entries is a list of things she wishes to do in the future and one of those things is travel the world. She writes about how she felt the need to get out of her situation but didn’t feel she had the power to do so. Reading these entries  broke my heart. On the one hand I can relate to her wanting to eat healthier, travel the world, and lose weight. My God, I have written of those very things in my own journal. I can even relate to that feeling of being stuck somewhere and feeling like you can’t get out. But she had this extra layer of absolute horror added to her problems that isn’t really mentioned in the journal entries.

I found myself sobbing when I read about her reunion with her mom. Even now, thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I loved reading about the moment she revealed who she was to the authorities. When she wrote her real name down on paper (for the first time in 18 years) she said it felt like breaking an evil spell.

I can’t say whether or not I loved this book. On the one hand it was very difficult to read. But in the end, am glad I read it. I feel like I can have more compassion for those who have endured such terrible suffering having read Dugard’s story.

Cannonball Read IV Book 3: Totally Joe by James Howe

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I hated that the soldier doll had my name. I mean, please. I didn’t play with him much. He was another Christmas present from my clueless grandparents. One time when they were visiting, my grandpa asked me if G.I. Joe had been in any wars lately. I said, “No, but he and Ken got married last week.” Every Christmas since then, my grandparents have sent me a check.”

Joe Bunch is one of the group of four from The Misfits. Joe’s teacher has assigned an “Alphabiography” in which his students have to write a biography, each chapter starting with a letter of the alphabet. Joe is a gay pre-teen and is very accepting of himself. However, he has to deal with the jerks around him who are not as accepting. The story takes us through the months of October through March of 7th grade and the story of his first relationship with another boy, coming out to his parents, and really coming to terms with who he is.

I didn’t like this one as much as I liked the Misfits but, still, I thought it was good.  Howe is really good at character development. I grew to really like Joe when reading about him in The Misfits, (from the perspective of  Bobby). It was really wonderful to see the world through the eyes of Joe. I would recommend this book to kids in 5th to 7th grade.

Cannonball Read IV Book 2: The Misfits by James Howe

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“This business of really knowing people, deep down, including your own self, it is not something you can learn in school or from a book. It takes your whole being to do it—your eyes and your ears, your brain and your heart. Maybe your heart most of all. —Bobby Goodspeed”

This is the story of a group of 4 friends. They are the Misfits; the kids who don’t fit in. They have the misfortune of being bullied. The narrator of the story is Bobby Goodspeed, also know as Fluff (named because of his love of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches. And because he might be a little on the chunky side.) He tells the story of how this group ran Addie (also know as String Bean)  for President of the school on a grass-roots, third-party called the No-Name party. The No-Name Party’s platform can be summed up with this line:

Sticks and stones may break our bones but names will break our spirit.

These kids are tired of being picked on and they are standing up for themselves.

I loved this book. I loved the characters. I especially loved the Narrator, Bobby. He is funny, if not a little bit self-deprecating. But I can relate to that. The character development in this book is fantastic. In fact, I’m really looking forward to reading Totally Joe and Addie on the Inside (both characters from this story). Howe does a fantastic job with dialog. I think character development is the greatest strength of this book. The story is wonderful, but I really grew to love the characters.

I would recommend this book to kids in 5th-7th grade.

Cannonball Read IV Book 1: Vanishing Acts by Phillip Margolin and Ami Margolin Rome

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Vanishing Acts is the first novel in the new Madison Kincaid series. It takes place in Portland, which is fun for me since I live in the area.

“I think he’s hiding something. I just don’t know what it is. But there’s something he’s not telling me. “

And with those words from her lawyer father Madison Kincaid is intrigued. She is a budding detective and future lawyer. Her father is working on a case involving the possible murder of her 2nd grade teacher. Madison wants to help her dad solve the case. At the same time, her best friend is missing and she feels compelled to find her. Other things Madison is dealing with? Being bullied by her fellow soccer teammates AND a possible first boyfriend. All of this during her first few weeks as a 7th grader! Madison is a busy girl! But she is smart and doesn’t let anything stop her. I like her.

And I really like this book. The story moved along very well. The character development was good. Overall, it was very well written for a Juvenile Fiction book. Well written Juvenile Fiction books can be hard to come by so it’s always nice to find one. I thought this was a delightful mystery and would recommend it to kids in 5th-6th grade.

Review: Tinkers by Paul Harding

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TinkersTinkers by Paul Harding

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

wow. I am blown away by this book. At some point I will read it again. It’s that kind of book.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. The first few sentences brought tears to my eyes as they perfectly described the scene in my Mom’s house a year ago when Doug died:

George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died. From the rented hospital bed, placed in the middle of his own living room, he saw insects running in and out of imaginary cracks in the ceiling plaster. Once Snugly pointed and glazed, stood loose in their sashes. The next stiff breeze would topple them all and they would flop onto the heads of his family, who sat on the couch and the love seat and the kitchen chairs his wife had brought in to accommodate everyone.

That passage hit all to close to home. I often wonder what was going through Doug’s mind when he laid on the hospital bed in the middle of my Mom’s living room.

Honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to read it before now. I’ve, thankfully, reached a place where I can think about Doug’s death without breaking out into sobs. Also, without the experience of watching him die, I’m not sure I’d be able to take as much away from this book as I am able to at this moment.

I’m really glad I read it.  The book was very profound. I need to read it again. In fact, I’ve downloaded the Kindle version and will actually read it rather than listen to it.

There were a few points that confused me. But I’m not sure this is the kind of book one can understand on an intellectual level. It doesn’t have a plot, and that bothers some reviewers on Goodreads. It is the hallucination of a dying man. Do hallucinations ever have plots? Do dreams have plots? No they don’t. They are a series of metaphors and images that might seem like they are strung together with a plot, but when you try to figure out what that plot is in the morning it seems to fade away; and you are left with vivid imagery.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this book all morning since I finished it. It is making me think about the veil between this life and what lies beyond this life. Whether it be what one might call “heaven” or whether it be past lives, or other lives that we might be living simultaneously (since time and space are an illusion). It makes me think about how, sometimes, that veil is very thin.

I’ll end this post with this beautiful passage from Tinkers (the one that got me thinking about this stuff):

He saw no reason to doubt that this shadow dreamed just as he did for the reason that he could imagine himself to be a shadow of something-someone-else and that perhaps even his sleep, his dreams, constituted his duty as a shadow of someone else and that perhaps while that someone else dreamed, he was free to live his waking life, so that this alternating interdependent series of lives formed a sort of intaglio; the waking day of each shadow was the opposite side of its possessor’s sleep.