(Review) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 2013. First published in 1937.
Genre: Fiction. Women and literature. African American literature. Classic literature. Romance. Relationships between men and women.
Pages: The story has 219 pages. An additional 40 pages for the “Foreword”, “Afterword”, 2 bibliographies, “Chronology”, “P.S.” section, and an excerpt of Barracoon.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of women and literature. Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Excellent.

PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

Christian Book link
Abe Books link
Amazon link

Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960

Summary:
Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of Janie Crawford. She is a light-skinned African American woman living in a rural area of Florida. The time period is the early 20th century. She is raised by her maternal grandmother. The first part of her life is determined by her grandmother and first husband. Then, like a sudden direction change in the wind, Janie is married to another man who takes control of her life. Later, Janie’s life take a different direction.

My Thoughts:
Janie is independent, rebellious, bold, and resilient. She is a person who ponders. She is a person who makes up her mind about a decision and moves forward with determination.
I enjoyed reading the “Foreword” by Edwidge Danticat. It provided well thought-out questions and answers about the story itself. Also, Janie’s choices versus women of this era’s choices. And, has she been a solid “role model for women” and “is this important?”
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a character driven narrative. Janie is a character that provides through her thoughts, attitude, words, behavior, and actions everything needed to make the story dramatic and memorable.
The narrative structure is chronological. The story begins when Janie is a child and progresses to midlife.
This story is less about “what is going to happen next” and more about how Janie is transforming as a person.
This is a story that is full of things to review. It’s a story heavy with further conversations. It is a book highly worthy of a book club.

Questions I have about the story:
~If Janie had children would she have made the same choices?
~Did Janie (at some point) understand her grandmother’s reasoning?
~Why did she tolerate certain behavior from one husband, but not the other husband?

Further Thoughts:
The dialogue is difficult for some readers. They become bogged down in the southern sayings, dialect, and accent. It’s best to read through the dialogue quickly and don’t stop to try and enunciate each word.
The story has author contributions. For example, the behind the scenes information and wise observations.
The story is filled with beautiful quotes. The opening line is beautiful, poetic, and memorable.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story that provokes my mind and heart. The choices I have made. The experiences I have had. And, my response to those.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is now a favorite book of mine. It’s a story I treasure.

(Review) The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Romance.
Pages: 364.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Christian fiction readers.
Rating: Okay.

Amazon link

The House on Foster Hill has been in my TBR pile a few years. I’m determined to catch-up on this stack.

Summary:
Two time periods with a main character in each period.
Kaine Prescott is the modern day main character. She’s a widow. She doesn’t have children. She relocates from California to Wisconsin to start a new chapter in life. She wants to break free from sad memories and start afresh. She buys an old house unseen in the hometown of her grandfather. The town is Oakwood, Wisconsin. Kaine feels her husband’s death was not an accident, but she’s been unable to convince the police. Meanwhile, Kaine believes she is being stalked.
Ivy Thorpe is the main character from the early 1900s. Ivy lives in Oakwood, Wisconsin. A young dead woman has been found in the cavity of a tree on the Foster Hill House property. Ivy helps her father who is a doctor with the medical examination. Ivy feels a duty to preserve with dignity the dead. She keeps a journal of deceased people. She feels this is a calling or a mission. Meanwhile, a young man arrives back in Oakwood as an investigator. His name is Joel Cunningham.

My Thoughts:
The House on Foster Hill is a chronological narrative structure.
The House on Foster Hill is a plot driven narrative.
The antagonists are both people and an agenda.

The House on Foster Hill uses the plot and subplots as the thrust of the story. They are the engine that propels the story forward.

What I like about the book:
~The cover. It’s gothic looking. The cover is haunting and enticing.
~The idea and setting of the story is wonderful. A mysterious house with a strong history of unexplainable events. Two women who are grieving. Both women have a pull to understand the secrets of the house.
~Ivy is a woman from the early 20th century, but she is the assistant to her father on a post mortem woman. I feel this is a rare job for a woman of this time period. I feel her experience working alongside her father made her a unique and interesting main character.
~Kaine’s working career had been in social work. She worked with women who had been victimized and abused. I feel her education and experience gives her a knowledge and wisdom most people don’t have. I feel this made her an interesting and valuable main character.

What I don’t like:
~There are too many subplots. I count 11. I don’t feel it is necessary to have so many subplots that the reader is wandering off in different directions and wondering how all of them or some of them will be reconciled by the last page. I feel some of the subplots need trimming.
~I don’t like the name Kaine. It is pronounced like Cain. I spent at least half the book wondering how to pronounce the name and the other half being reminded of Cain and Able.
~Kaine doesn’t respond in certain situations as I’d expected. She had years of education and training as a social worker. Her work placed her in crisis situations. In her career, Kaine would have attended further training. In The House on Foster Hill, she behaved as a cliché in a crisis situation instead of her training. I didn’t like this. I didn’t feel it was believable.

(Review) Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster. 2016.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Romance.
Pages: 448.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II and romance stories.
Rating: Okay.

Amazon link

Summary:
Time period for the story is 1939 to 1942.
The setting is London, England.
On the day World War II began, Mary North enlisted at the War Office hoping to do something exciting for the war effort. Instead, she’s given the job as a teacher of children.
Mary meets Tom and they fall in love.
Alistair is Tom’s best friend. He is in the army.

My Thoughts:
My main problem with the book is I don’t like Mary’s character. I kept having to remind myself she is 18, but to me she comes across as younger. Her experiences during the war grew her up…..a little. She is still not a character I felt invested in because of her voice and personality. Unfortunately she is the voice I hear the most. I’d rather have the story focused on Alistair. He is the interesting person.
The part of the story that is meaningful and memorable is the air raids and bombings in London during these years. I learned through the characters, and by their responses, what it must have been like.
I have a great love for children. I wish the story had examined more children and their individual stories.
Over-all I felt this an okay story but could have been more.

(Review) Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong
Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage. Published March 21st 2012. First published September 27, 1993.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 496.
Source: Library ebook copy.
Audience: Romance readers who can also digest a war story, or readers of military stories who can digest a love story.  Historical fiction readers of World War I.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link for the book

Birdsong is book two in the French Trilogy by Sebastian Faulks. The first book is The Girl at the Lion d’Or. The third book is Charlotte Gray. I’ve read Charlotte Gray. This last book I rated good or 3 stars. From what I remember, Charlotte Gray was a bland character.

Summary:
The year is 1910. Stephen Wraysford is a young Englishman who stays with the Azaire family in France. He is observing and learning about Mr. Azaire’s factory business. Mrs. Isabelle Azaire is the second wife and step-mother to the two children. She is a proper, respected, and lovely woman. The constraints of her economic class and the era in which she lives creates an insecurity about being perfect. However, perfect is a façade, an illusion. From the first moment, there is an instant attraction between Stephen and Isabelle. There are several scenes of lingering eye contact and touching, which builds to the moment they seek a safe place to act on their attraction. Their relationship is powerful and they are swept up in the energy it brings. It peaks when reality sets. The story then shifts to the early years of World War I. Stephen is in the British army. He is an officer in command of other soldiers. A secondary story is the late 1970s, England. A middle age woman is in search of information about her grandfather. The book is primarily about Stephen Wraysford. The lens is on him.

My Thoughts:
I have so many thoughts about this story.
•I’d heard about this book years ago when the movie was on PBS. I watched pieces of this movie at that time. I’m hoping to watch it in full.
•Recently, I read an account (from someone else) this book gave a solid look at World War I. I agree. It is descriptive about so many aspects of the war I’d not considered. For example, the lice and flea problem. Lice and fleas permeated the soldier during World War I. Even when they were on leave and cleaned up, the eggs were in the clothing. They’d hatch eventually and the soldier began itching. The itching was done without realizing, because they’d become accustomed to the problem. Another aspect is the shaking or tremor in the hands of soldiers. Their hands shook because of PTSD. Other aspects of the war in this book: the sound that a shell makes before it hits the target; what happened to a human body depending on where the shell hit; the miners who tunneled; an explanation of what gangrene does to a human body; what a poisonous gas attack does to a human body; medical treatments from doctors and nurses; the feeling of detachment for a soldier; retrieving dead bodies for burial; and the infestation of rats.
Birdsong is a book about relationships. Relationships between husbands and wives, parent and children, lovers, friends, and soldiers who are in war. As I’ve become older, I have learned there are different types of love and different levels of love. And, people who romantically love one another, and it is a deep love, don’t always end up in a permanent relationship. Sometimes things don’t work out for people who love one another. This book explores a lingering love. A love that doesn’t go away, but only finds a safe place to settle in a person’s heart.
•Faulks is a descriptive writer. I found myself lingering and rereading certain parts, especially with people. I felt that if I reread those portions about the person I might understand them better. I might see them in my mind clearer.
•The themes in the story pull at the heart. For example, war and the impact it makes on generations.
Birdsong is a haunting story. It’s a memorable story.
Birdsong is a mature story. I’m not saying that if you are 18 you are not old enough to read the story. Birdsong requires a maturity about life that is made profound by older eyes.
•I understand the reason for including the modern story. However, I didn’t care for it. It felt pasted. It felt insignificant in comparison to Stephen’s story.

 

(Review) Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor

Beyond the Moon_Blog Tour PosterBeyond the Moon_web

 

Publisher and Publication Date:
The Cameo Press Ltd. June 25, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Fantasy fiction. Romance. World War I.
Pages: 496.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy, but I was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War I. Romance. Dual time periods.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
The kindle copy is free in Kindle Unlimited.

Book tour landing page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About the author:
Catherine Taylor was born and grew up on the island of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands. She is a former journalist, most recently for Dow Jones News and The Wall Street Journal in London. Beyond The Moon is her first novel. She lives in Ealing, London with her husband and two children.
Catherine Taylor website
Catherine Taylor

Summary:
Outlander meets Birdsong is this haunting debut timeslip novel, where a strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War and a young woman living in modern-day England a century later.
*Shortlisted for the Eharmony/Orion Write Your Own Love Story Prize 2018/19
In 1916 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett is a patient at Coldbrook Hall military hospital in Sussex, England. A gifted artist, he’s been wounded fighting in the Great War. Shell shocked and suffering from hysterical blindness he can no longer see his own face, let alone paint, and life seems increasingly hopeless.
A century later in 2017, medical student Louisa Casson has just lost her beloved grandmother – her only family. Heartbroken, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol on the South Downs cliffs – only to fall accidentally part-way down. Doctors fear she may have attempted suicide, and Louisa finds herself involuntarily admitted to Coldbrook Hall – now a psychiatric hospital, an unfriendly and chaotic place.
Then one day, while secretly exploring the old Victorian hospital’s ruined, abandoned wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help, and stumbles across a dark, old-fashioned hospital room. Inside, lying on the floor, is a mysterious, sightless young man, who tells her he was hurt at the Battle of the Somme, a WW1 battle a century ago. And that his name is Lieutenant Robert Lovett…
Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Two journeys begun a century apart, but somehow destined to coincide – and become one desperate struggle to be together.
Part WW1 historical fiction, part timeslip love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art – Beyond The Moon sweeps the reader on an unforgettable journey through time. An intelligent read, perfect for book clubs.

For fans of Diana Gabaldon, Amy Harmon, Beatriz Williams, Kate Quinn, Kristin Hannah, Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Paullina Simons.

“A poignant and stirring love story… Taylor’s accomplished, genre-bending book succeeds as a WW1 historical novel and a beguiling, time travel romance… The sharply written narrative deftly moves back and forth between the past and present.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A time travel romance, yet so much more than that. It is also an unflinching portrait of the horrors of war, and a look at the torturous extremes a human soul can endure. It is a sonnet to the transformative power of love, even as it is also a criticism of the futility and pointless destructiveness of war.” — Shaylin Gandhi, author of By The Light of Embers

My Thoughts:
This is a first novel for Catherine Taylor!
Beyond The Moon is a busy story. It’s busy because several themes are running through it. Examples of themes: PTSD, war, depression, survival, love, death, prison, art, medical practices, family, friendship, private hospitalization/treatment center practices, pacifist, and addictions. The lengthy list of themes, and the categories the book fits, had to have been a very big challenge for Taylor. I believe she pulled it all together for a great story. I read the book in two days! The story held my attention until the end, because I had to know how the story would wrap up with the two main characters.
Dual time periods has become common in historical fiction books. In other books, the dual time periods go back and forth with the change of each chapter. Beyond The Moon allowed one time period to stay through repeated chapters at times. This gave me a chance to relax.
Solid description writing of the scenery that helped me become apart of the story.
Taylor is wonderful at painting the scenes.
Great dialogue. In one scene, people are having a conversation about the war (World War I.) This conversation gave me an idea of how people on both sides felt about the war.
Fantastic reading about medical practices used during World War I. Some of the practices are primitive, yet they are on the edge of transformation in learning new things.
The ending is not believable, but I consider this story to be fantasy.
A wonderful first novel! Bravo.

Giveaway: (Impressions In Ink is only posting the material for the giveaway.)
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two paperback copies of Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
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Link for the giveaway: https://gleam.io/lAcVI/beyond-the-moon