Friday, April 19, 2019

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Science Fiction

Professor Aronnax is invited on an expedition to find a giant sea creature responsible for eating a hole in a steel ship and almost sinking it. Having a passion for studying the sea, he gratefully accepts and brings his assistant along with him. On the ship, they meet Canadian harpooner Ned Land who will be responsible for taking the beast down. It takes a while, but they eventually find the monster and pursue it. When they get close enough they try a shot at the beast, it looks like it does no damage. The beast takes aim at the ship and Prof. Aronnax and his mate go overboard.

In the water, far away from the ship, they also find Ned Land clinging to what looks like a piece of the beast. But it's made out of steel, surely it's not an animal. Suddenly a door opens and they are brought within this ship and kept captive. The beast they everyone has been trying to pursue is an advanced submarine.

Being kept captive on the ship, the trio is allowed to partake in the adventures they go on. They see things no one but those on the ship have seen and venture to places no one has been. It's obviously Verne had an incredible imagination to pull this book together and, despite it being 100+ years old, still reads like something that could happen today. This is where the book excels, as the characters are a bit weak. There was no purpose to Aronnax's assistant in the book at all. He provided absolutely not value to drive the plot forward. And even the main characters like Aronnax, Land, and Captain Nemo we don't find out too much about.

Even with this, the book's weakest point is the ending. It's like Verne couldn't figure out how to end the book so just gave up and said oh well we're done now. It's unfortunate as otherwise the book was pretty fun.

First Line: "In the year 1866 the whole maritime population of Europe and America was excited by a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon."


Sunday, April 07, 2019

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd


Jessie gets a call from her aunt summoning her home to deal with a family emergency. Jessie grew up on an island off the coast of South Carolina with her mom, dad, and brother until a tragic boat explosion took her father when she was only 10. Since then, the family was never the same. Jessie escaped the island the first chance she got, got married to Hugh and had a daughter. But when she finds out that her mother has purposely cut off a finger, Jessie needs to return to the island and face the past.

When Jessie gets to her mother's house, there's a lot of emotions in that house. Jessie knows something is wrong with her marriage and is trying to re-find herself. Her mother is obviously struggling with a very deep grief. The two aren't good at confronting each other so they just dance around each other for the majority of the book.

Also on the island is a monastery where monks live and the island famous mermaid chair sits. As a child, Jessie was in awe of the mermaid chair and things haven't changed. Finding her mother there one night, she also first sees Brother Thomas and instantly falls in love with him, causing further turmoil in her marriage.

The love story of this book bothered me from the start. Jessie and Brother Thomas see each other, exchange no more than a sentence or two, and decide they are in love with each other? None of the rest of the book read like a fairy tale so not sure why the author went down this path. The internal struggle they both had on whether to accept the relationship was interesting, coming from two completely different points of view.

I know others have not enjoyed this book because it doesn't compare to Sue Monk Kidd's other book, The Secret Life of Bees. Having not read that book before, I had nothing to compare this one to. It was very easy to get in to and though I didn't love the story, it was a good enough read to keep me engaged the entire book.

First Line: "In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk."