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Book Review: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

August 18, 2011 8 comments

Picture of Jaycee at the age of 11.Summary:
On June 10, 1991, eleven year old Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted from her school bus stop by Phillip and Nancy Garrido with the aid of a stun-gun.  Jaycee was locked up in a backyard compound and repeatedly raped and abused by Phillip in a bid to satisfy his pedophilia.  Over the course of her 18 year captivity, Jaycee gave birth to two daughters in the compound.  Eventually with her increasing age, the sexual assaults stopped, but she was still held captive.  Finally, on August 26, 2009, Phillip brought Jaycee and her daughters with him to the parole office in an attempt to explain away why he was spotted in public with the two girls.  Jaycee, who hadn’t been allowed to speak her name for 18 years, was able to write it down for the police.  This is the memoir of her experience and gradual recovery from the captivity.

Review:
Jaycee wrote this memoir without the assistance of a ghost writer, something very uncommon in memoirs by victims of abduction.  She states in the beginning that her way of remembering things is a bit off because of the trauma, but that her way of telling her story will provide a genuine experience for the reader to truly see how the abduction affected her.  She is correct that the memoir is not set up in a traditional way, but this tends to make for stronger books when discussing something as painful as this.  It reminds me a bit of the very non-traditional story-telling methods used in another memoir When Rabbit Howls.  Eliminating the ghost writer and letting the victim speak grants us, the readers, the opportunity to truly connect with a survivor.  I humbly thank Jaycee for her bravery in this.

Most of the chapters start with Jaycee remembering the events from the perspective of her younger self.  This absolutely makes scenes such as her first molestation by Phillip incredibly haunting.  She then ends each chapter with a reflection from her adult, free perspective on the past.  This structure is unique, but it provides an interesting perspective, showing both Jaycee the victim and Jaycee the survivor.  Toward the end of the book this structure is lost a bit as we suddenly are shown many pages from the journal Jaycee carefully kept in captivity, as well as talking in a more present manner about the therapy she’s been going through.  Her therapist sounds truly remarkable.  She uses horses to help the survivors deal with problems, which seems to work incredibly well for Jaycee who often only had animals around to talk to during her 18 year ordeal.

Although Jaycee does recount her abuse and manipulation at the hands of Phillip, that is not at all what stands out in this memoir.  What comes across is what a strong, sensitive, caring woman Jaycee is.  She is not lost in woe is me.  She does not even think she has it the worst of anyone in the world.  The one thing she repeatedly states she’s learned is that she was not assertive enough as a little girl, and that personality trait backfired on her repeatedly throughout the ordeal.  She states that she sees this as the reason abuse of all kinds are able to go on, because people don’t speak up.

There are moments in which all of us need to have a backbone and feel that we have the right to say no to adults if we believe they are doing the wrong thing. You must find your voice and not be afraid to speak up. (page 143)

This message of “speak up” is stated repeatedly throughout the book and leaves the reader feeling empowered rather than downtrodden at such a tale.  If Jaycee could live through such a situation and come out of it stronger and as an advocate for victims and survivors of abuse to speak up, how can any of us do any less?

I recommend this book to those who enjoy memoirs and survival stories and can handle scenes of a disturbing nature.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop (series, #1)

August 17, 2011 7 comments

Girl holding glowing thing.Summary:
In this fantasy matriarchal land, people are ranked by their power based on what color jewels they are mystically assigned to wear when they come of age.  The darker the jewel, the better.  The women all have some sort of witchcraft power, but none have had the power of The Witch in hundreds of years.  Corrupt women have messed with the structure of society turning it from harmony to darkly using the men and women to their own advantage.  Men in particular are used by controlling them via a ring of obedience (placed around their penis).  Into this messed-up society the much waited for Witch is born, but most do not recognize her.  Lucky for her, the demon dead Saetan and his two living sons, Daemon and Lucivar, do.

Review:
This is what I would call high fantasy.  The only thing missing really is knights in shining armor.  A friend gave me this trilogy for my birthday as it is one of her favorite series, and she thought I would like it.  I can see why she thought I would like it.  It’s dark, graphically violent and sexual, and the choice to depict a messed-up matriarchy instead of patriarchy is unique.  Unfortunately I just couldn’t get into it.

First there’s the whole jewels and traveling on webs and wind and speaking on a soundwave that only people with that jewel can hear thing.  None of these things are ever particularly explained.  They just are.  Ok, so that probably works for fantasy fans, but I’m a logical, scifi reading lady.  I want explanations for things.  Also, how society fell apart is kind of massively unclear to me.  I’m not sure how things went from good to bad or what the properly functioning society is supposed to look like.  It’s all very confusing, and frankly, I can’t remember the order of the ranks of the jewels.  I just remember that gray is second-strongest and black is strongest.  But then later in the book some people say they’ve worked their way up to stronger jewels than their birthright.  Um, what?  When did that happen?  How can that happen?  If you can do that then why does your birthright jewel matter at all?  None of this makes any sense. Agh.

Then there’s the ring of obedience.  So they put this on violent males who are now sex slaves, apparently.  They serve witches.  The ring makes it so they can’t get a hard-on without pain.  But they don’t take the ring off for sex, which means these women are using sex slaves but never actually having intercourse. Who would want that?!  How does that make sense?  Also, Daemon can apparently pleasure women and tie them up just with his mind.  He can do this but he can’t get a ring off his dick?  This feels like badly-organized erotica.  Which would be fine if it was erotica, but it’s fantasy, so wtf Bishop.

So then we have Jaenelle, The Witch.  She’s eleven or twelve, I can’t remember exactly which.  Her family thinks she’s crazy because she’s super-powerful and travels around meeting mystical creatures and told them about it, which was a bad move.  She got sent to an asylum then brought home, and she’s been all Miss Mysterious Dark Eyes That Are Actually Gorgeous and Sapphire ever since.  This is the main mystery of the book.  That and the manly threesome trying to protect her from the big bad queen witches who want her dead.  So Daemon is working in her house and basically falls in love with her.  He’s never felt sexual desire for a witch before, but now he does.  He feels horrible that he feels it for one so young and vows to wait until she’s grown up enough to be with him, but he still feels it.

Then we *spoiler alert* find out the asylum is just a cover-up for pedophiles, and of course Jaenelle gets raped, and a good witch saves her, and Daemon and Saetan work together to try to save her, and in her mind she tells Daemon that he just wants her body just like everyone else, and he basically makes out with her in her mind to show her he wants to be her lover not hurt her.  This makes her come back to her body and heal it. Then she escapes to Saetan and Daemon escapes off to a brothel.

Can we just HOLD THE PHONE for a minute.  I am not at all against a pedophilia storyline or plot device.  These things happen in real life, so it’s ok for them to be in a story.  I do have a problem with the “good guy” having sexual feelings for an eleven or twelve year old when he’s literally centuries old.  He himself admits this is bad, but instead of going away from her, he makes out with her in her mind (when she’s in half-horse form no less).  I just….what.  What the what.  What am I supposed to think about this?  How am I supposed to feel about a book written by a woman in which the matriarchy basically abuses everyone and yet the men still wind up with most of the power (the manly threesome) over this young girl who is supposed to become the awesome ruler one day, and one of the guys has pedophilic feelings for her. WTF.*end spoilers*

I suppose it’s possible that Daemon is an anti-hero, and we’ll find that out later in the series.  That Jaenelle will triumph and prevail over everyone and fix everything.  We can only hope.  I do suspect that part of my issue with the book is just point-blank never feeling comfortable in the fantasy world Bishop lays out.  I just don’t do high fantasy.  When will I learn this?

That said, it does seem well-written, and I think if a fantasy fan can handle very dark and graphic violence, sex, and themes, they will probably enjoy this trilogy.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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