BOOK REVIEW: THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON

As a teenager, Janie’s grandmother married her off as quickly as possible to an old man with his prospects in his sixty acres. When she’s tired of being stifled by him, she runs away with a man she found on the horizon, Jody. When Jody claims Eatonville and becomes the mayor, he takes her voice and covers her hair. Finally, she meets Tea Cake after Jody’s death, and she realizes what it means to be in love.

Alright, I’ll admit it. I was completely bored in the beginning of this book. And I hated the dialect. And I didn’t really have any feelings toward Janie because to me, she seemed very papery.

I can’t tell you exactly where the transition happened or why, but somewhere toward the middle I realized that I actually really enjoyed reading this book.

First of all, after Janie’s initial marriage and into her second one with Jody, I understood the weight of her voice and the toll it took on her to muffle it. And I started to appreciate how Hurston set up the novel and characterized Janie. It was subtle. She wasn’t papery. She was smart.

One of the major topics Hurston explores is the power of language, and she shows this through Janie’s marriages and attitudes. She hardly talks at all while married to Jody, showing her position as less than him, while with Tea Cake, they have real conversations and her dialogue is scattered throughout the end of the novel. She uses the form of the novel, not giving Janie much dialogue to greatly increasing it, to show her transition from less than her husband to equal with him. By doing this, I mistook her silence for two dimensional, but really it means so much more because language and the lack thereof shows the inequality between genders and Janie’s strategies in her marriage.

It is written pretty much completely in dialect, but I quickly got used to it. I also think the dialect definitely adds to the story, making it more real and emphasizing her themes on the importance of language.

Otherwise, I felt like there was probably a lot of stuff in the book that I missed. Plot wise, it picked up when Jody got sick. There is a bit of a twist with Tea Cake that I wasn’t expecting, but I also neglected to read the back and am a cynic, so it probably wouldn’t be surprising to anyone else.

I really did enjoy the book, and I liked how it didn’t seem like a race novel. Sure, there was a subtheme concerning racism and how it can affect anyone, black or white, but it didn’t overtake the novel. The novel is a classic because of its themes on language and equality, not because it’s only directed toward one audience.

I definitely recommend it as an important classic that isn’t that difficult to read.

“She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her.”

TOP TEN BOOKS IF YOU LIKE JOHN GREEN

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic focuses on less-known books that would be good recommendations for readers who like certain popular books or authors. I chose John Green because I felt like this would give me a wide variety of contemporary young adult novels to chose from.

  1. Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts: This book is about a guy and a girl, who fall in love… and one of them has cancer.
  2. Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout: This one is about a girl who goes to Korea for boarding school and falls in love with an aloof KPOP star.
  3. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith: Smith’s male protagonists have similar voices to Green’s main characters.
  4. Mosquitoland by David Arnold: It’s a classic road trip, Abundance of Katherines/ Paper Towns,anyone?
  5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Her male protagonist is also similar to Green’s, and the entire book is a contemporary love story with a focus on teen angst.
  6. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: This book is about a relationship between Naomi and Ely, young adults and best friends, and it has themes of teen role confusion and a contemporary mood.
  7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Lockhart’s writing style reminds me of Green’s because there are a lot of beautiful quotes and abstract concepts to think about.
  8. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: Again, the male protagonist reminds me of any Green book, and it focuses on internal conflict, just like Green.
  9. Six Months Later by Natalie Richards: I don’treally have a good explanation for this one, other than its contemporary feel.
  10. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga: The conflicts in this book, and the inevitable star-crossed teen lovers, is perfect for Green aficionados.

TOP TEN BOOKS ON MY FALL TBR LIST

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is all the books on our to-read lists. I actually don’t have a lot of timely books this season.

  1. Winger by Andrew Smith (I want to reread this for the sequel)
  2. Stand-Off by Andrew Smith
  3. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
  5. More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera
  6. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  7. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  8. Hello, I Love You by Katie Stout
  9. Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
  10. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

TOP TEN FINISHED SERIES I HAVE YET TO FINISH

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic focus on the series that we haven’t finished yet, and this basically encompassing every book I’ve ever read. I’m not dedicated enough to finish series. Honestly, some of these series may not be finished yet, but I know that I won’t finish them.

  1. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
  2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  3. The Program by Suzanne Young
  4. Matched by Allie Condie
  5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  6. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  9. Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
  10. Legend by Marie Lu

MONTHLY WRAP UPS: SUMMER

Alright, so I slacked on my wrap-ups. Conveniently, it was all the summer months that I missed, so here goes an all-in-one finishing post to summarize my summer. I definitely didn’t read as many books as I should have, and I’m way behind on my books to review and Goodreads challenge, but oh well.

Read: 14 novels

  1. Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
  2. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  3. The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
  4. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathan Safran Foer
  6. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
  7. The Future of Us by Jay Asher
  8. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
  9. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M. T. Anderson
  10. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
  11. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  12. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  13. The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior by Stephanie Barbe Hammer
  14. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Reviewed: 5 novels

  1. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  2. Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
  3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathan Safran Foer
  4. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
  5. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mini Reviews: 3 novels

  1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  2. Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  3. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Discussed:

  • Crabby Conversations: Spontaneous Road Trip
  • Confessions of a Teenage Reader: The Inevitable Hiatus
  • Confessions of a Teenage Reader: Beautiful Little Birdy
  • Crabby Conversations: The Bookish Patriarchy

Book Haul: 17 novels

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • Even the Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  • The Plague by Albert Camus
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • The Underdogs by Markus Zusak
  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
  • Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Liars, Inc by Paula Stokes
  • The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  • Summer of the Oak Moon by Laura Templeton

Bookish Excitement: 

  • YALL Festival and Decatur Book Festival released their author line-ups.
  • Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer held a signing sponsored by The Little Shop of Stories for their new book Off the Page.
  • 995 Bookmarks
  • Little Shop is hosting a good many author events coming in October and I’m super pumped!

Non-Bookish Excitement: 

I, surprisingly, had a very eventful summer without doing much…

  • Tybee Island and Orange Beach trip
  • Nashville trip to visit Vanderbilt (the campus and the school are both perfect, by the way)
  • It’s been the summer of concerts: Dave Matthews Band, Train, Fall Out Boy
  • Zoo Atlanta… twice

Guys, the summer has been beautiful and full of everything and I’m ready for it to be over but I’m also not ready to go back to school. Just think about it. I’m a senior now. This is it. You spend three years getting comfortable, one year to enjoy the glory, and the process begins again. Scary, right? I guess that’s just how it will always be. Cyclical to a fault. Anyway. Let’s see if I can even begin to pick the best parts out of the summer…

Summer Favorites:

  • Read: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson– How can I not pick this one? It’s a summer anthem book.
  • Reviewed: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathan Safran Foer
  • Mini Review: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
  • Discussed: The Bookish Patriarchy
  • Haul: 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
  • Bookish: Guys. I’m five bookmarks away from reaching 1,000. Five.
  • Non-Bookish: The concert string– specifically Dave Matthews and Train.

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE READER: BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BIRDY

I like to pretend I fear very little. I’m not scared of heights or small spaces. I can handle flying and water and darkness. I can pretend that snakes and horror films don’t bother me. But I do have a rather public list of irrational fears. Some of the fears are ordinary, some are impossible, and some are just plain embarrassing. So here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Ceiling fans
  2. Birds
  3. Tape measures
  4. Cockroaches
  5. Someone closing a car door for me and getting one of my limbs caught and having it fall off
  6. A baby kicking out of a mother’s stomach

Yep. Those are my fears. In black and white. I know some of them are really dumb, but… whoops?

But anyway, I did bring this up for a reason. I’ve been doing some soul searching as of recently, specifically during my hiatus. Bloggers are supposed to be super into Twitter, right? I’m supposed to be scrolling through my feed constantly, reading author tweets and responding to fellow book bloggers and being cyberly social. I should be tweeting about how obsessed I am with Twitter.

The thing is, I’m not. I hate Twitter. I hate it with a burning passion. I see that little icon, their cute little Twitter logo, and I cringe. I “read” my feed by seeing how far and fast I can scroll on one swipe. I have a widget on my phone’s home screen that’s *supposed* to help me care about Twitter, but I have yet to set it up. It’s bordering on pathetic, my inability to care about it.

Then I connected something. This may be far-fetched. This may be a laughable excuse. This may be downright wrong. But here goes…

Refer back to my second fear. Birds.

Click the next tab over, where I know you have Twitter opened. What’s that little blue icon? Oh? A bird.

Bam! Mystery solved.

Oh but Erin, why do you hate birds so much? Good question. I have no idea. I had not traumatizing situation relating to birds, I’ve never seen any movies to harbor my hatred of them. I just came to the realization that their are two things that make my skin crawl: fluttering and scuttling. Birds flutter. Cockroaches scuttle. End of discussion, they’re going on my list.

So in some weird connect-the-dots shape, I’ve come to the conclusion that I physically cannot like Twitter because of my pathological fear of birds.  I apologize to the blogesphere in general, and I will work to curb my fear of both the app and the creature. But I make no promises.

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE READER: THE INEVITABLE HIATUS

It finally hit me. The disease that threatened the greats and plagued the minds of students everywhere. The disease that seeps its way into library walls and wraps its cloudy hands among computer screens and lined paper and destroys the works of many.

Writer’s block.

I struggled with it for a while. The better part of last semester I trudged through posts and reviews and just felt drained every time I opened my laptop. The disease worked its way into my mind and destroyed all of my discipline. And not only that, it found its way into other parts of my life. If I had no will to write, I read less, I slacked on my quotes, I let my room be taken over by books and clothes and trash.

Then I decided the only way to curb said disease would be to withdrawal myself from blogging. I still wrote for myself and I read (though not as much as I would like to say), but I figured that taking a blogging hiatus would be good for me. I didn’t have a plan for how long, and I felt guilty for the amount of books I have stacked in my “to review” pile.

So then yesterday I cleaned my room. Mostly. And I updated Goodreads. And I reshelved all my miscellaneous books and tallied my bookmark collection. And today felt like the day to start blogging again because despite my loss of will, I missed it. I feel so detached now because not only did I stop blogging, I stopped tweeting and reading blogs and withdrew from the general bookish fanbase.

Today rolled around. And I knew it was time. The sky was overcast, everyone was out of the house, and my laptop called to me. My writer’s block may take a little work to shake off, and I’ll have to be on overdrive to catch up with everything, but I can handle it. I think.

So here it is. My obligatory sorry-I-left-but-I’m-back-now post. I’m not going to give myself any real goals, yet, and I think I’ll just let myself drift back into things. I figure it’s not a big deal if I’m not completely involved all the time. It’ll be okay.

But I think I am going to give myself a little bit of an out.

As I previously noted, I have a stack of books to review. A literal stack. It makes me cringe just thinking about it, and I always want to curl up and put a book over my head and pretend they aren’t there. But they are. And I want to review them, I just don’t want to write the reviews. Which is not possible.

So here’s my out.

I think for the summer I’ll do a series of  mini reviews. I’ll have my book review on Monday, Top Ten Tuesday on Tuesday, (maybe) a discussion post on Friday, and a mini review that’s plopped into any day I have time to do it. It’ll probably just be a paragraph or two about the things that really stuck out at me about the book (considering I haven’t read them in a while), which will allow me to review them without going through the lengthy review process.

It’s a win win. Right?

Well, hopefully. So that’s my plan of action. After posting this, I’m going to update my quote jar and plan a couple weeks of posts. And write some of them. And maybe get on Twitter if I have enough energy after that. We’ll see. But I’m definitely ready to start blogging again. I’ve missed it!

CRABBY CONVERSATIONS: SPONTANEOUS ROAD TRIP!

I have a grand idea. Let’s jump into a snazzy little clunker and rev the engine into the distance. Let’s follow the sunset with a can of money and a drawstring bag of clothes. Pack light because things will work out on the way. Let’s not plan anything and focus on the objective. Let’s see the Northern Lights, let’s visit our long-lost lover, let’s just seek adventure and because we’re on a road trip we’ll find it. See a hitchhiker? Pick him up. See a road sign for the biggest block of cheese in the Western Hemisphere? Pull off. This is a road trip and we have all summer and our phones are nowhere to be found because those sedentary people are just holding us back.

Sounds implausible, reckless, and a generally awful idea, right? Wrong. Because this is fiction and we can do whatever the heck we want and nothing too terrible will happen unless we want it to.

Road trip books absolutely baffle me because they’re considered contemporary fiction. Realistic. I think I would categorize them as fantasy, because how does everything work out perfectly? How does adventure just kick you in the face? How is the road trip not just sleepy hours in a car with disgruntled occupants?

And I have one question, just one– where are your parents? If they know about your trip, how are they okay with it? If they don’t, how did you possibly deceive them of something this big? (alright that was more than one question)

But, seriously. I wish my parents caved to my reckless whims and allowed for my craving for adventure be satisfied by a road trip.

The thing is, despite the absolute absurdity of these trips and the complete unrealisticness of this niche, I love this books. I love them so much.

I think it’s my wistfulness. I would adore going on a road trip. The more spontaneous, the more fun. I’ve always wanted to have interesting things and interesting people fall into my life, and I’ve dreamed of breaking out of suburbia and into something real. Yet this books aren’t real… But they are what I wish was real. If that makes any sense.

So, yes. Road trip books are unrealistic. Completely fantasy. But somehow the valiant road-trippers find love and fulfillment and excitement and sorrow and everything in between. It’s the classic Hero’s Journey, but in contemporary terms.

But here’s the thing.

I hate the classic Hero’s Journey of trumping through woods and fighting evil with swords and magical powers and gaining alliances.

Yet I love the contemporary Hero’s Journey of driving down the highway of escaping sticky situations with wit and luck and meeting people from the forgotten folds of the world.

MONTHLY WRAP UPS: APRIL

Read: 4 novels

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  2. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  3. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. Takeoff: Looking Beyond the Clouds by Austin Jackson

Reviewed: 3 books

  1. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  2. There’s No Place like Oz by Danielle Paige
  3. Killer Cruise by Jennifer Shaw

Discussed:

  • Crabby Conversations: Just Don’t Read It

Book Haul:

  1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  2. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  3. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  4. Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

     

    How could I resist this beautiful cover? (Plus it was only $6)

  5. Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
  6. Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
  7. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
  8. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  9. Catch-22 by Joesph Heller

Wow, I actually got quite a bit of books this month! The haul has only been around 1-3 lately.

Bookish Excitement:

  • 972 Bookmarks
  • Author Event: Little Shop Launch Party
  • 8 books behind on Goodreads Challenge

Non-bookish Excitement:

  • Death Cab for Cutie concert!
  • Dogwood Festival
  • Tybee day trip #SB2k15
  • Standardized testing and exams! My favorite!

Monthly Favorites:

  • Read: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Reviewed: There’s No Place like Oz by Danielle Paige
  • Discussed: Just Don’t Read It
  • Haul: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer– Alright, so there’s a reason that this is my favorite out of my uncharacteristically large haul. Random House sent me an ARC of this book with the cutest little presentation, and (unlike some of the bigger bloggers) I’m not rolling in ARCs and publisher-sent books, so needless to say I was pretty pumped.
  • Bookish Excitement: Little Shop Launch Party
  • Nonbookish Excitement: Death Cab for Cutie concert

AUTHOR EVENT: LITTLE SHOP LAUNCH PARTY

I did something out of the ordinary over the weekend. I went to an author event (which isn’t the crazy part)….

I went to an author event without reading the book first.

*cue the shame*

In my defense, it was a launch party, so the book only came out like three or so days before the event. I know the more hardcore readers would have already read and reviewed the book, but I just decided that I would buy the book once I got there. Plus I had to buy a book to get one signed, so it worked out.

Basically, we did the usual routine with a bit more flexibility since it was on a Saturday instead of a random Monday night. My parents and I went to the Dogwood Festival in the afternoon and went over to Decatur of dinner before the event. I bought the first (two) books of the launch party, just sayin’.

It was actually quite an adorable event. Usually we head upstairs and listen to the author talk about whatever he/she wants to talk about, then we go downstairs to a signing line and jump back into our cars. This time, we stayed downstairs and they had Oreo cookies and milk and alcohol-soaked stacks of more Oreo cookies. And wine. Don’t forget the wine.

Can you guess the book? Published in April, revolves around chocolate cookies with creme filling…

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Plus it had a gorgeous display.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the event. My friend met me there, and we stood in the back surrounded by all Becky’s friends who came out to support her book release. You could tell that she was a first-time author and didn’t have the whole author-event thing down just yet, but I liked that about her. It was interesting to see how surreal the whole process was for her, and I felt like seeing a debut author gives young writers more confidence and makes their goal to write a novel more realistic.

Also, let’s talk about how she said it took her all of 6 months to write, edit, and sign her book. Oh my gosh! It took me 6 months just to think of a blog title and actually start writing book reviews!

She did a question/ answer session and signed books, and you could just tell how excited she was about her book being published. The complete opposite of a snobby writer. She thanked her friends and family a million times in the beginning, and I loved seeing her whole support system. It also made me feel a bit like I was intruding, but, hey, when she’s the next John Green I can boast about being at her first launch party. And she’s writing another book now, so I could totally see that happening. 

As I said earlier, I usually don’t go to bookish events if I haven’t read the spotlighted book or author. It always feels fake to me, like I’m pretending to be a fan of something I haven’t even read yet. But I had been seeing Simon on pretty much every platform that has anything to do with young adult literature, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. How could I resist a launch party!?

I had already read reviews and searched her author blog and watched a Tea Time episode that interviewed her literary agent, so I would say that I did know a bit of Simon and Becky trivia before going. Which sounds creepy, now that I think about it. But it’ll be okay.

Point being, the excitement I had for this book was unreal. I cannot tell you guys enough how much I appreciate The Little Shop of Stories, because they do the cutest events, and the Decatur Book Festival used to be the bookish event that became my lifeline to hold me over until next year. And now they’re doing all sorts of different events, and I’m currently making it my job to go to as many as I possibly can. I may or may not pull up their events page just about as often as I check Twitter. You know, just to chill, see what’s up in Decatur… make sure I’m not missing any authors.

Speaking of, in addition to meeting the lovely Becky Albertalli, her friend David Arnold, author of Mosquitoland also popped in to support her. I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve walked across the beautiful cover of Mosquitoland and had to pick it up just to see what it felt like to hold a work of art in my hands. I haven’t done quite the extensive research on his book as I did Simon, but it still had a nice glowing spot on my TBR list. I didn’t really think I would be reading it anytime soon (I’m cheap, I don’t buy hardbacks… or full-priced paperbacks… Basically I will not buy a book over $6 unless it’s signed). So needless to say I was pumped to get the extra little gift of Mosquitoland in addition to Simon and meeting both authors who are wonderful down-to-earth people.

So please, if you don’t go to author events or festivals or anything, find yourself an adorable bookstore and get involved in this community! Everyone is always so nice and it’s really a lot of fun. Writers are awesome, but readers are the life of the party!:)

And a little sidnote: I just finished Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and it is all the adorableness rolled into a cute modern narrator, rounded friends, and a meaningful plot. More on the book with the review!