My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Normally I just don't finish and review books I dislike but I finished this for a couple of challenges. It might have been a quick read maybe 3 stars but by the end even 2 stars seems generous. First off Willow Rose is the ‘queen of scream.’ I don’t know if she’s self appointed royalty or if some review somewhere said it. If the blurbs and bio are to be believed she’s the author of bestselling books (and could well be for all I know). What I do know that based on this I wouldn’t be looking for more. I do have one or two others of hers on my reader so I might try them but only because they’re already there.
This is set in small town Florida and told in multiple points of view, some third person and some first, including Stephanie Boulder who has returned to the town after fifteen years to take care of her terminally ill grandmother (she eventually becomes the main pov character), a blind Seminole girl and her father, and it’s nonlinear for the first half at least so we have the point of view of the mother of a strange boy who talks to the ghosts at the hanging tree from the time of the Civil War and beyond where apparently a lot of African Americans were hugn.
Stephanie starts digging into the death of Julian Long, star of the local high school and some of other high schoolers. What she begins to suspect that it might be supernatural and that the young woman accused of killing him did not? Many of the kids, and later Stephanie and the blind girl and her father (also accused of murder) are seeing the titular umbrella man in their dreams but dreams can’t kill you, right?
And you can see right there part of the reason my review plummeted. Willow Rose’s author notes said she got the idea from a recurrent dream of her daughter’s where the girl kept seeing a scary man with an umbrella. Okay that could be cool. But by the end of this thing it’s literally a plot stolen from a Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors right down to going in to the dreams to stop the Umbrella Man from reaching into their dreams and killing them. Are you telling me the Queen of Screams has never seen this movie? I’m talking close enough I’m surprised someone didn’t sue.
Even if I could look past that, and I probably could have, we then have characters with the emotional depth of a mud puddle. From here on out consider things to be minor spoilery. For example, someone Stephanie cares about turns out to be a horrible person and then is killed and it’s like oh well, I guess he was bad and he’s almost never thought of again. How realistic is that?
And it gets worse, then the bad guy, who has been in this thing from day one (along with his mom), we finally get the big reveal about him (so spoilers here) he’s African American. I’m not kidding, that’s treated as a big reveal. I’m like was that supposed to tie him into the ghosts of the hanging tree (which is supposedly prompting him to be as murderous as he is)? Racist overtones aside, it added absolutely jack to this because that link was never made. And then he’s an albino (which could have been interesting had it been a thread thru the book instead of slapped into the end) but his mother didn’t know sunlight was bad for him and that’s how he ended up so badly burned at age 18. Um…a mother with an albino child in Florida didn’t know sunlight could burn him and he’s eighteen years old, not eighteen months? Is she completely stupid? I’m the one who feels dumb for reading this and wasting time reviewing it.
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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is one of those classics I thought I read as a kid in lit class but I’m becoming more and more certain all I ever saw was the movie. I tried to review this as someone from the 1800s as much as I could. That’s also why I put it in the Sci-Fi category because back when it was written it would have been SF. For a book from the 1800s it has less casual racism than you’d expect, really just one chapter with the ‘savages’ which is better than many books of this time period. That said, there isn’t a woman to be seen in this thing.
In many ways it’s different than I expected, a bit less exciting. Oh, I’m sure if I were in the 1870s reading this, I might have been enthralled. An all electric submarine with men living free under the sea? The rich descriptions of all the sea life? This would have been fantastical to the contemporary reader. For me, a little less so. In fact I was not expecting to have endless lines about longitude and latitude. I now know the price of everything in 1870. I’m not joking. It’s bogged down in this.
It felt like Jules Verne researched forever for this book and he was determined to put in every last bit of minutia into this story. There are description after description of ever crustacean, fish, mammal, cephalopod, plankton and ‘animalcues’ known at that time. It was some dry reading in that point.
But on the other hand we had a couple of interesting characters in Captain Nemo and Professor Aronnax. Both men are actual rather alike. Aronnax, along with his ‘boy’ Conseil, and the Canadian harpooner Ned Land, are originally on a ship that is out to kill the ‘narwhale’ that has been spearing boats and sending them to the bottom of the ocean. Only they get knocked overboard by the ‘narwhale,’ which is of course the Nautilus.
They are rescued by Nemo but Nemo has been so traumatized by things that happened to him (presumably in Europe) that he has sworn off living on land and to that end, the three men are free to move around the submarine, unless he says otherwise, but they can never return to land.
Truthfully if not for Ned, Aronnax might have been content to stay with Nemo. For reasons I can’t even begin to understand, Aronnax loves Ned (wants to live to be a hundred to keep appreciating him) because Ned is nothing but a pain in the butt. All he wants to do is kill crap and get off the sub. Aronnax on the other hand sees this as the ultimate research possibility. Conseil does whatever Aronnax wants.
Really most of the book isn’t them fighting giant squids (that is a tiny tiny part) or Ned trying to escape, it’s mostly just them cruising around the oceans documenting sea life. That was a surprise. In fact the real desire to get off the ship doesn’t happen to much later and how it comes about is a little eyerolling.
Nemo really isn’t a bad man. He’s more a sad man. He is anti killing for the most part (unless it’s a cachelot, an old term for sperm whales, he’s all about killing them. And well humans, he doesn’t like them much). He just doesn’t want his life on the sub to be revealed to those on the land. We never really know what happened to him other than he lost everything.
Aronnax lives in his head and interestingly enough he understood that man was causing things to go extinct (but later someone argues that isn’t not possible. I’m not sure who that was now) I was surprised to see that level of understanding then when we have people who don’t believe in that today.
Aronnax does act a bit classist always calling Conseil ‘his boy’ even though he acknowledges Conseil is 30 and he himself is only 40. Granted it’s a sign of the times this was written in. Overall this isn’t bad for its age if you skim past the long passages about every fish in the sea.
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