Saturday, February 22, 2014

Reflections: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys

I'm a Latter-day Saint, and I come from a certain culture.  I was married at 22 and now at 28 I have three daughters.  There are certain cultural and sub-cultural attributes found within the American experience that I simply do not understand.  Reading Manning Up was an eye-opening, enlightening, and, at times, disturbing glimpse into a culture that I have never belonged to and am glad I never did.

I heard about Kay Hymowitz's book while listening to the October 2012 General Conference—oddly enough, a Latter-day Saint semi-annual gathering.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson quoted the book several times, which I found terribly intriguing since Apostles of the LDS Church choose their sources and quotations very, very carefully during something as public as General Conference.  The title and especially the subtitle of the book—How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys—captured my attention, and I decided to give the book a go.

Manning Up's subtitle—How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys—doesn't, of course, do the book's nuances justice, and might have been a little too polemical just to get attention.  Hymowitz does address in detail how women's changing role(s) in society has affected men within that same society, but there are a lot of details and variables involved in any cultural change, especially in one as consequential as this one.  The author's arguments, theories, and suggestions in the book should not be ignored.  There is very valuable commentary to be found here, and I feel even more interested in this important topic now that I've read Manning Up.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with Hymowitz in her central thesis, Manning Up does provide an insight into the preadult culture that is both educational and shocking (at least for me).  Society has changed, and Manning Up delineates a few of the ways in which it has.

I would recommend Manning Up.  (To a certain extent, I think the book was tacitly recommended by someone far more influential than me).  Regardless of your ideological and sociological viewpoints, you will find a lot to hate or a lot to love in Manning Up.  I was more on the love side of things, but I understand how difficult it is to truly define culture and explain its many variables.  For what it's worth, Manning Up is a valuable contribution to the discussion.

Other Topics of Interest:
A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy
People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Quiz v.1

The Thousander Club sponsored a Book Signing Party today for author Linda L. Zern and her latest book, Mooncalf.  We played some book trivia and the questions are below.  How much do you know (without Googling it)?
  1. What is Ender's real name in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game?
  2. Who wrote Frankenstein?
  3. Charles Dickens said "I like this the best" of which of his books?
  4. What is the narrator's name in Moby Dick?
  5. In which Hunger Games book did Peetah lose his leg?
  6. Name all of the factions from Divergent
  7. What is Guy Montag's occupation in Fahrenheit 451?
  8. Who was Harper Lee's best childhood friend?
  9. In which dystopian allegory does the phrase "All animals are equal" appear?
  10. In A Tale of Two Cities, what are the two cities?
  11. Whose face "launched a thousand ships"?
Bonus: In Mooncalf, what does Leah want to name the calf?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reflections: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an interesting book—very different and oddly intriguing.  Set on the moon circa 2075, Robert Heinlein's science fiction story is steeped heavily in historical precedents of revolutions and societal reformation.  Heinlein's libertarianism is apparent and recognizable in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but it's not caricatured.  What the book lacks, however, are characters the reader can connect with and care about. 

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a fairly sophisticated look at the difficulties of revolutions.  Interestingly, so much of what the book showcases is on display in global politics today.  It's tough building a new nation, and the book was obviously inspired by historical events such as the American Revolution.  (The Declaration of Independence is directly referenced and quoted in the book by the "Loonies" to justify their own rebellion).  I love the subject matter and was vey interested throughout the entire book; however, I can see how other readers who care less about such matters or lack historical knowledge of past revolutions, especially the American Revolution, may find the book obtuse and miss key insights. 

The greatest weakness of Heinlein's story is its lack of relatable characters.  Characters are there and they play key and important roles, but that's about as far their involvement goes in the story.  There are few human moments, but there is not enough to endear any of the characters to the reader.  I wouldn't blame someone for starting but not finishing the book because it can feel very detached most of the time. Furthermore, the writing itself in the book is hard to get used to.  My wife, who has a Bachelor's degree in English from Brigham Young University, took a single glance at one page and said: "That's a sentence fragment."  In the context of the book and its style, the grammatical mistakes are not incorrect but it was still jarring to read.

I enjoyed The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  It was interesting, intriguing, and thought-provoking.  It was also not terribly fun to read.  It won the Hugo Award in 1967 and deserves acclaim for the creativity and insight it provides within the science fiction genre, but it's not a book I'll recommend to a lot of people.  I liked it, but I'm not everybody.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The Road to Serfdom
Reflections: Anthem
What Every American Should Read

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Memorable Moments: Heart of Darkness - 'The horror! The horror!'

Heart of Darkness is so well-known there aren't too many people who know it well.  In other words, it has become such a part of our cultural fabric that people reference it or even quote it but are not familiar with the actual source material.  Without a doubt the most well-known and memorable line from Conrad's unforgettable tale is "The horror! The horror!," which is uttered by the book's mysterious and broken Mr. Kurtz. However, after reading the book, I don't think that immortal line is most memorable because Kurtz uttered it but rather because Charles Marlow does not utter it.

After Marlow returns from the bowels of the jungle that drove Kurtz insane, he continues his obsession with Kurtz by visiting Kurt's fiancĂ©e.  She is, of course, distraught and grieving and Marlow attempts to console her.  In a final plea to understand Kurtz's death and the true character of the man she loved, she asks to know the last words that he said.  The reader and Marlow know the last harrowing words—"The horror! The horror!"—groaned by Kurtz.  But how do you further crush the tender soul of a woman who thought so differently about her betrothed than what eventually became a reality?  After some consideration and inner despair, protagonist lies to Kurtz's fiancee and tells her: "The last word he pronounced was—your name."  She is relieved, but the truth has no victory.  But should it?

Heart of Darkness is a book that only deals with bad news.  Conrad's story feels pessimistic and even hopeless.  Those loaded words "The horror! The horror!" express all that's bad about humanity, but the lie about those words told by Marlow are what make the words truly memorable.  Are  we lying to ourselves about ourselves?  And should we?  I’ve pondered such questions before, but for others that haven’t, Heart of Darkness—especially the scene mentioned above—gives a good reason to do so.


Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Heart of Darkness
Memorable Moments: The Illustrated Man - 'Make a wish! Make a wish!'
Memorable Moments: A Tale of Two Cities - 'It is a far, far better thing'

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Tour Spotlight: Mooncalf

Mooncalf coverMooncalf by Linda Zern Over Olympia and Leah's heads, Americans race the Russians to the moon; on their television sets young men fight and struggle in the mud of Viet Nam; and America holds its breath between heartbreaking tragedies.

But on Miss Brinker's school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn't. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls.

Olympia's father works other men's orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah's father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle.

At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.


Praise for Mooncalf "One of the most admirable things about Mooncalf is that it's difficult to find a single wasted word in the entire book. Granted the book is short; yet, it is very rare to find a book which treats with such delicacy the choosing of each word--each adjective, verb, and noun. Themes, motifs, and symbols are everywhere throughout Mooncalf, and most impressive of all none of it is discarded. Motifs and themes exist in big and small circles in Mooncalf, circling back in on themselves as well as intertwining themselves with the plot and the characters that inhabit it. And those motifs and themes, those messages and those symbols, don't go away once you've finished the book. They stick with you. It's hard to forget Mooncalf."" ~ The Thousander Club

"I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it." ~Lacey Smith  

Excerpt: Olympia’s voice was a whisper in Leah’s ear. “I don’t have those things, those cooties.”
“I know. I don’t even care what those things are.”
“Cootie bugs. Miss Rhodes is saying I have bugs crawling and living in my hair and at my house.”
“Miss Rhodes didn’t mean you.” Leah felt icky.
“She couldn’t mean you.”
“It’s because I’m one of the poor kids, you know. She said it: sharecroppers.” Without looking, Olympia pulled her hand out of Leah’s and started trying to flatten the wrinkles out of the crushed paper doily on the valentine. Leah put her hand over Olympia’s, the valentine a ruined mess under their fingers.
“But Miss Rhodes has hair just like yours.”
“No,” Olympia said, shaking her head. “No, Miss Rhodes doesn’t want hair like mine, like she had when she was a little girl. She wants white folk’s hair. That’s what Granny Mac says. ‘Cuz some colored folks like her don’t know who they want to be any more.’”
Leah looked at the neat part in her friend’s black braids, and loved the way Olympia’s barrettes danced when she dropped her head. She saw only the complicated, clever patterns in her friend’s clean black hair. Leah saw only Olympia.  

mooncalf tour

LindaAuthor Linda Zern Linda Zern is a native of Florida where she learned to be moonstruck.

She wrote her first children's chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer's Digest called "the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing." Florida Publisher's Association was kind enough to award her little book the President's Book Award for best children's book of 2005. Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at Smashwords.com, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at HumorPress.com.

Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world. The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.


  BookBlast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 2/28/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Book of the Month: February

The theme for the Book of the Month in February are books that will be adapted into films in 2014.  Based on Buzz Feed's list, Thousanders selected Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn to read in February.

Gone Girl is a highly praised thriller about the disappearance of a woman named Amy.  Her husband of five years, Nick, quickly becomes the prime suspect and what follows is a twisted and intricate narrative with a promise to surprise at the end.

Praise for Gone Girl:

“Ms. Flynn writes dark suspense novels that anatomize violence without splashing barrels of blood around the pages… But as in her other books, Ms. Flynn has much more up her sleeve than a simple missing-person case. As Nick and Amy's alternately tell their stories, marriage has never looked so menacing, narrators so unreliable.”  
Wall Street Journal


“An irresistible summer thriller with a twisting plot worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. Burrowing deep into the murkiest corners of the human psyche, this delectable summer read will give you the creeps and keep you on edge until the last page.” 
—People (four stars)


To see the full list of The Thousander Club's Books of the Month click here.  Make sure to 'Like' us on Facebook so you can participate in future voting.