We Suck: The Seester Edition

I suppose you are wondering what the heck is happening in this on-again/off-again crazy world of Alabama book clubs. Right? Right. At least, I hope some of you are wondering.

The lack of activity is Seester’s fault this month. My mother experienced a medical crisis that, while it has tapered in intensity, has been on-going for about 3 weeks.

I am beginning to think perhaps we should switch to movies, thus requiring about a 3 hour per month commitment, although, not quite sure I can manage that!

I hope to reclaim some of my leisure time in the near future, so please, don’t abandon us just yet.

My apologies.

Something Young Adult: Island of the Blue Dolphins

scottodellActually Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is usually classified as a children’s novel, but I ran it by ‘seester and she’s good with it. Published in 1960, it’s the (based on a true) story of a girl stranded on an island off the California coast for 18 years.

I got to it in my head because in the fourth grade, it was one of the ones floating around with several of my better-read classmates. And I also remember being assigned books in the fourth grade that I just didn’t enjoy at all because I found them too hard to read (think Onion John, …And Now Miguel, and Johnny Tremain). I haven’t tried any of these in most of four decades, so for all I know they’re not at all difficult to read and I just didn’t like the subject matter at the time.

But I remember passing on this one for the same reason.

Hence my somewhat flimsy basis for selecting Island of the Blue Dolphins for an Alabamians Can Read broadcast and blogging. Come join us.

The Martian: Recap

What a wonderful, old-fashioned, heart-bending, adventurous novel. If you listened into the broadcast (www.blogtalkradio.com/bamacanread/2015/03/16/the-martian), you know that both of your hosts loved this castaway-on-Mars story.

Saintseester:

Right off of the bat, this novel’s premise and engaging narrator sucked me right in. The novel doesn’t quite fit my alien-trekking, faster-than-light travel, super weaponry laden definition of hard science-fiction, but it most certainly fits into near-future science realism. The extra-ordinary level of research and thought the author put into crafting this work is a very strong feature, but the character and plot development are just phenomenal. Together, they work to create a fantastic novel that will appeal to readers across the board. This is not a niche novel.

Another plus for this book is that it is immensely readable – surprisingly fast to ingest it. Often, that is a symptom of a fluffy, meatless work, but in this case, the pacing and scientific challenges work so well to draw you in. Kudos to the author for a work well done; I hope he produces many more.

Saintseester rates this as a 9+; it brushes against my personal upper echelon of favorite science-fiction tomes.

Bo:

Andy Weir’s talent for narrative, as ‘seester mentioned, puts the accelerator on the floor for you from the first page and it never lets up. It’s rare that a book engages the reader so completely and so quickly.

The science and technology research is obviously meticulous. We’re both nerds, and we picked no nits here.

Looking forward to the Ridley Scott-directed film starring Matt Damon.

I had this book at a 10, then a 9, then talked myself back into a 10 during the broadcast as the (minor) objections I raised evanesced as we talked. Bravo!

10/10

Discussion Questions:

I honestly found the reading group guide from the publisher to contain a great set of thought-provoking questions that, rather than ask redundant questions, I’ll just post a link here: andyweirauthor.com/books/the-martian-hc.

Please tell us what you think, and don’t forget to listen to the broadcast archive if you missed it live.

The Martian: Broadcast Date

We’ve scheduled the date for discussion of this month’s novel, The Martian, on Blog Talk Radio. The episode will be hosted live at 8:00 PM (Central Time) on Sunday, March 15th. This book is fairly quick to read, so you have plenty of time to pick it up and join us. The link to the broadcast is here: www.blogtalkradio.com/bamacanread/2015/03/16/the-martian

Something Sci-Fi: The Martian

During our broadcast over the weekend, we noted that although Bo’s choice was for the category of Something Chick, it technically would fit Something Non-Fiction. I immediately realized that meant that sometime in the next 6 months we will again read a non-fiction selection. Bo knows I am not much enthused about that particular genre, so he, naturally, poked me by insinuating that would be the category he throws my way.

In case you have recently found our little slice of book club heaven on the internet, the way this get up works is that we alternate handing a topic from the Year of Themes Page (See sidebar) to the other host. That host then chooses a book. For the entire 12 theme cycle, each of us gets only a single veto.

Bo was teasing me. Then he let me off the hook by giving me the option of choosing Something Sci-Fi. Sci-Fi is so deep in my wheelhouse that I have an arm’s length listing of sci-fi novels that I know are outstanding recommendations. However, I am going out on a limb and choosing a book that I’ve never read, but have heard some interesting buzz about. That choice is The Martian by Andy Weir.TheMartian

In the very first sentence of the novel, we learn that the main character is stranded on Mars and believes he will certainly die there. I’ve heard this is a fast-paced adventure style of a novel that has broader appeal than most hard science fiction. By hard, I mean the style of sci-fi I grew up with: spaceships, lasers, faster than light travel, alien cultures, etc. This novel seems to fit the more near-term future.

Join us to see how it turns out. We will post a broadcast date soon.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman: Recap

shwonderwomanYou know, I enjoyed our broadcast on this book, and intriguingly, the book is setting ever more weirdly with me as time goes by.

Wonder Woman was conceived as an ultimate expression of female power by William Moulton Marston, a mostly failed academic psychologist who invented the lie detector and fathered children with the founder of Planned Parenthood’s niece.

(Lynda Carter in 1978, she mostly ain’t.)

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is meticulously researched by Harvard professor Jill Lepore, to the point that a full quarter of it is notes and citations. Superficially it seems positioned as a typical pop culture title, but it reads much more like an academic text. She does a good job with neutral presentation of ideas here. There are several opportunities for her to inject her own views, but she remains committed to exposition without particular passion.

Marston is consistently interesting, though it was difficult for either of us to find much to admire about him. I’d think a fellow so ostensibly enamored of women that he would submit fully to their authority would find a way to treat those in his life with more respect.

Wonder Woman is conceived and presented as strong, noble, just, loving, and patriotic, which struck me. The idea was that only America was enlightened and enabling enough to bring forth this female power. This is perhaps at odds with modern feminism, which may regard such patriotism with ambivalence (at best) or even hostility.

This is a history book, a women’s studies book, and a biography at least as much as it is a superhero book. Moreover, though not difficult to read, it is dense. This is not a good candidate for just before bed.

Bo:

I mostly enjoyed reading this book, but I’m rating it as highly as I am more for its craftsmanship. The amount of work represented here is substantial, and the polish impressive. I give it 8 out of 10.

Saintseester:

I think what most disappointed me about the book, was the lack of the later Wonder Woman history. Even though she apparently has taken several sharp turns through her decades, we only get an in-depth view of her creation story. I suppose that is the purpose of this book, but I want to know more. Maybe that is the mark of a truly successful history book – feed me enough to make me hungry.

Still, because this book is obviously targeted toward pop culture interests and not strictly a history text, I am only going to give it a rating of 5. It did not quite do it for me.

Discussion questions:

  1. How can we resolve Marston’s treatment of the women in his immediate life with his supposed feminist ideals?
  2. How is the feminism that informed Wonder Woman similar to feminism of today? How is it different?
  3. What, if anything, does academia’s consistent rejection of Marston have to do with how Wonder Woman ultimately debuted?
  4. Wonder Woman ranks right up there with Superman as one of the most popular and enduring American comic Super Heroes of all time. Why is that?
  5. Does Wonder Woman continually have to evolve to keep her audience? Have the male characters had to change significantly?

The Alabamians Can SOMETIMES Read Online Book Club

No, we have not dropped off the face of the earth or out of the internet ether.  We have just dropped the ball a little bit n pressing through in the face of holidays, football playoffs and pretty much any sparkly, shiny distractions that present themselves.

That being said, we are back in the world of the reading with a planned blog talk radio broadcast to discuss The Secret History of Wonder Woman on the evening of February 8th.  Please join us in an exploration of the people behind
one of the most popular and enduring comic book heroes.

We really mean it this time.

Pinky Promise.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

shwonderwomanSaintseester and I have an enjoyably tortured process by which one of us picks the category, and the other picks the title within it. Intriguingly, she gave me Something Chick this time.

I have chosen The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

This is described as a bit of historical mystery-solving, in which author Jill Lepore reads and analyzes many previously unknown writings of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Lepore argues that Wonder Woman is an important missing link in the history of women’s rights, from suffrage to feminism.

And, plus you know. It’s Wonder Woman.

I know this will produce stimulating conversation, and I’m looking forward to getting into it. Join us, won’t you? We’ll announce a show broadcast date sometime soon. This will be our final selection of 2014.