Monday, August 19, 2013

Standing in the Light

Standing in the Light:  The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan is a fictional diary by Mary Pope Osborne, written for the Dear America series.  Caty Logan is a 13-year-old girl living with her family in the Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania.  The Logans are Quakers - a pacifist religious group that began in England and spread to North America in the late 1600s, when some of them emigrated to escape religious persecution.  Quakers have been historically very politically active in the fight for universal civil rights and gender equality, although they also tend to practice modesty and humility in general behavior and appearance (at least during the time in which this book is set).

It is 1763, just after the French and Indian War, and Caty is worried because there have been reports of raids on farmers around the valley, in retaliation of the English government going back on their treaties with the local villages regarding land ownership.  Caty's father believes that their family will be safe if they show the Indians that they trust them, and has faith in the friendly relations the Quakers have had with the Delaware Indians in the past.  Despite this, however, Caty and her brother Thomas are taken captive on their way to school one winter morning; after hearing the rumors at school of people being scalped, Caty fears the worst.

After a while, Caty loses track of the days, though curiosity and what seems like admiration causes her captors to allow her to continue writing in her diary, and from the day she and Thomas are taken, the book becomes a letter to their father, in case it should ever find its way back to him.

Once the small party reaches a village, Thomas is taken away:  will she ever see him or the rest of their family again?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Confident Woman

The Confident Woman:  How to Boost Self-Esteem and Happiness for Everyday Women by Carolina Ordoñez is exactly what it sounds like:  a self-help book for women.  Ordoñez has taken her journey from being a meek and depressed young girl to a confident and successful woman, sharing anecdotes of her own experience while explaining what she did to improve herself.  Each chapter focuses on one particular aspect, and Ordoñez discusses why the issue is important to your self-esteem, what she did to change this aspect in her own life, and offers advice as to what she personally recommends to truly get the most out of improving yourself with regards to this aspect.  At the end of the book are lists of recommended reading and videos to watch, which are relevant to the bettering of oneself. 


The Confident Woman may be a quick read, but this is certainly not a book that guarantees a quick fix for your self-esteem issues.  To be completely honest, when I started it, I actually wondered a little whether such a short book could really even be all that helpful.  And now that I've finished reading?  My verdict is that The Confident Woman is absolutely a helpful book.  I tend to be fairly picky about the self-help books that I pick up, since most of them end up falling well short of their purpose for me.  Once in a while, though, I come a cross one, or one is brought to my attention, that shows a bit of promise, and this was one.

Ordoñez writes in a tone that is rather conversational, and I got the sense that I was being given advice by a friend or a trusted acquaintance.  I've read other books of this nature that try to achieve this same tone only to end up coming across as patronizing or condescending, but I got none of that sense from this book.  English is not Ordoñez's first language, and there were some instances where I picked up on that either from the grammar or the language used, and in general, the technical aspects of the book were kind of rough around the edges, so I'd probably send it to an editor for some tidying up, if it were me.  I don't feel that the content of the book suffered much because of this, though, and I think I got a lot out of reading it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Time to Kill

John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, is a courtroom drama set in 1980s Clanton, Mississippi.  A 10-year-old girl is raped and left for dead by two men, who are subsequently arrested for the crime.  The father, Vietnam veteran Carl Lee Hailey, acquires an M-16 and kills them both as they exit the courthouse after their hearing.  This seems pretty cut and dry:  except it becomes a huge controversy in the small town, because Carl Lee and his daughter are black, and the two men are white.  These days, most people I think would either think "so?" or else would not admit to having a prejudice, but this is a small Southern town with a mostly white population, and being that it is the 1980s, the Civil Rights Movement really wasn't all that long ago.  So there is a strong racial overtone to the issue, and this sets the stage for the rest of the book, especially when Carl Lee's trial makes national news, and the KKK gets involved.


I'll be honest with you guys.  Courtroom drama and legal thrillers are not really my thing.  Sure, I am studying criminal justice as a minor, but my concentration is in forensics:  I'm more interested in the investigation and laboratory analysis side of things, not so much the hanging-around-in-a-courthouse-and-meeting-with-lawyers side of things.  So if this book had not been assigned for the criminal justice class I've been taking this summer, I would probably not have ever bothered to pick this up.  It was my first time reading Grisham, and may well be the last.  I know he is a best-selling author, but this just was not for me.  I haven't seen the movie adaptation, so maybe adding a live-action element makes the story more compelling, but as far as the book goes, I was actually pretty bored through about 99% of it.