Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Book Review | Ruby by Cynthia Bond

RubyRuby by Cynthia Bond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ruby tells the story of Ruby Bell and Ephram Jennings, they first meet when they are children and we come back to them as adults. Despite the heart that somebody mistakenly decided to put on this spine – this isn't a romance! A love story yes, but most definitely NOT a romance. Ephram has never forgotten Ruby and he’s loved her his whole life. He eventually comes to a point in his life when he decides to act on his feelings, to try and help her out of the situation she’s in and the story begins there. I was more than a little taken aback when I’d been reading for a while, the blurb didn't indicate at all just how much violence is in the book, obviously, I saw the heart, thought ‘right a romance’, but an angsty one, the blurb mentions her confronting her ‘devastating violence of her past’. So I figured Ruby would be working some shit out. Oh boy.

This was a difficult book to read – not just because of the continued, if not daily abuse that Ruby experiences, but also the extreme racism, domestic violence, child abuse and animal cruelty. There are some very detailed passages that I had trouble reading and I really struggled with those. I feel like I have a fairly high tolerance for things like that but this was too much to the point that I didn't feel it was necessary, I certainly don’t deny that there are children who are horribly abused, that experience this, but for all this to happen to Ruby was too much. There was one really horrible scene when I was almost stopped reading. I was done. Ultimately I continued because I needed to know what happened. It also helped that I had a couple of buffer books that I read at the same time. There were also parts of this novel that suspend belief – how could a whole town be so oblivious to goings on? I found this frustrating and it was probably one of the things that annoyed me most. I felt this especially while I was reading it, towards the end I did feel that people in the town knew, they just turned a blind eye, possibly out of fear. But given that it involved these small girls – where were they coming from? Ruby was from Liberty, but the rest? I don’t care who you are, if I knew my child was suffering like that – there’d be no way I’d be letting that stand.
That said, Bond’s writing is beautiful, I can’t dispute that. Some of moments between Ruby and Ephram are wonderful.

“Ephram took her hand, “But I’ll tell you what. I’m most interested in the woman you have yet to be.”

“He wanted to tell her that he had seen a part of the night sky resting in her eyes and that he knew it because it lived in him as well. He wanted to tell her about the knot corded about his heart and how he needed her help to loose the binding.”

And don’t get me started on how he cleans her house and washes her hair. He doesn't take advantage of her, even when she expects him to, he just lets her be and gets on with his business.

When the novel opens Ruby has come back from New York to the small town of Liberty, its 1963, but it’s hard to pin point exactly how much time passed while she was in New York and how long she’s been back as it seems to me Ruby doesn't have any concept of time once she gets pulled back into Liberty. The blurb says she’s 30. But I know other readers have questioned the time frame. The novels timeline is erratic in general and this does get confusing. Among Ruby & Ephram’s stories we also get intersecting stories from family members’ lives, how they come to be and how events shape them and their families. But often it’s a half a page or a few at most. I wanted to know more about some of these characters. It’s seems like they’re only explored insofar as how they further Ruby or Ephram’s story. I enjoyed reading about then, but the broken timeline was distracting. From best I can guess early on in the book when Ruby and Ephram meet it’s after she’s been to the pit, but before she goes to stay at Miss Barbara’s, but because the way Bond unfolds the story it is hard to be sure of that. There’s no real mention of how long she stays at Miss Barbara’s, obviously they may have only wanted her for a certain number of years and I think I remember her going there for the school holidays, but I could be mistaken.

This is told alternatively through Ruby and Ephram, and as mentioned, with a few other characters when their view is relevant, (mainly looking into Celia, Otha and Mr. Jennings and a little into Ruby’s past), I liked that we got to hear from both characters and in Ruby’s case this was important, she was often written off as the town crazy lady, when I felt like she wasn't. To me she was almost a wild creature, made that way by circumstance. There is this whole town that is just intent on taking her soul and Ruby is stuck there. An example is early on, when we meet Ma Tante, Ruby is told by her to leave her body/go elsewhere so that they can’t steal her soul. If you stay, that’s how they get you. Essentially, don’t be present for the horror, so you can survive it. There were elements of magical realism that I felt helped bring this to life for me. There are times when she ‘becomes’ a tree and can feel the earth. Depending on which way you take events, Ruby and Otha could possibly suffer from (in my totally non expert opinion), schizophrenia. And I found it interesting that these symptoms are explained/derived from the demons that they’re burdened with, not the actual illness. I guess that’s also depending on how much you believe in the Dybou. At least that was my take on it.

Religion is a theme running throughout the novel, both the conventional and voodoo. It’s interesting the effect that this has on various people. Celia, Ephram’s sister, uses Christianity and its structure to cope with events in her life, to control things. To the point that she is so dogmatic in her views. I kind of get the feeling that she not actually a very nice person. Crows are used a lot throughout the book, both as harbingers and as protection for Ruby. And obviously, there are people in the town that use voodoo. I don’t know enough about voodoo

This is apparently the first in a trilogy. I’d like to see these characters happy. I hope that there isn't too much graphic violence in the next two installments. Moving the novel forward – this may be a possibility, but if it delves back into the Bell’s past I don’t think that’s a possibility. I hope that there is more cohesion within the story and less jumping around in the timelines, even clearer movement would be good. I have reservations recommending this to everyone, it certainly would be too much for some people. I still think it is worthwhile reading it, I can’t say I enjoyed it as such, but it was a powerful read, that I’m still thinking about and as I stated previously, the writing and Ruby and Ephram’s love story is a thing of beauty.

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Until next time, happy reading :)


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Book Review | Maestra by L.H. Hilton

MaestraMaestra by L.S. Hilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a quick engaging read, but totally not what I expected. This came up after I'd searched for Perfect Days by Raphael Montes which Conrad over at The Deckled Edge had hauled/read and recommended. So when I saw it at Big W later that week I decided to give it a go.

When I started reading I had no idea that this was erotica, I'd assumed from the blurb it was a straight up thriller. But it jumps right into the bang bang and thankfully it's written well, although it might be gratuitous for those not expecting it...there is a lot of it. I appreciated the authors knowledge in the field of art history, (she writes non-fiction/fiction under Lisa Hilton), and I'll be checking out Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens and Mistress Peachum's Pleasure: The Life of Lavinia, Duchess of Bolton later.

I felt it was fast paced, it kept my attention while I was reading it, I wanted to know what was happening. There were a few times that I called bullshit - thinking that would NEVER go down like that. But I didn't mind suspending my belief.

I'm not sure how I feel about the 'To Be Continued' that is on the last page, as I was nearing the end of the book I had an inkling that we wouldn't get a definite ending. I've since watched an interview with the author that mentioned Maestra is the first in a trilogy. I don't mind a trilogy, when I love a book, it's the perfect way to continue visiting a world that I enjoy, and while I did enjoy this while I was reading it, I'm not sure if the other books will add anything more or different to the story. I feel like there is only so much that Judith can offer - unless the author ups the erotic ante or liberates Ophelia from the Tate.

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Until next time, happy reading :)


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Book Review | The Chimes by Anna Smaill

The ChimesThe Chimes by Anna Smaill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I certainly enjoyed this book, as it went on I became more engrossed in the story. At first I thought the author had made her own slang language up. But then I realised that she was using musical terms to refer to tempo - a musician I am not! This is a book about music so it makes sense that the writing is lyrical.

I appreciated the ending which wasn't all (view spoiler) And that is, in one sense satisfying, I'm not expecting the usual dystopian trilogy, (which is actually refreshing), I still would've liked a little more time with Simon and Lucien. The second half seemed to fly past presto.</["br"]></["br"]>

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Is there anyone else who is participating in the manbookering madness?  It's lots of fun, we have a Goodreads group started by Max from Well Done Books - come check it out! 

Until next time, happy reading :)


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Book Review | HOT Protector by Lynn Raye Harris

Hot Protector (Hostile Operations Team, #10)Hot Protector by Lynn Raye Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the tenth book in the series, so there are complex relationships that have been formed within the team, it was great to be able to revisit this world.  I feel like this is the perfect book to jump in and see if you like the series, Harris has hit her stride, I enjoy her writing style, her heroes are alpha but not so much that they're overbearing. There are appearances by other team members, but there isn't any pertinent information that could be considered spoilers as such. If you haven't tried the series definitely pick this up and see if you like Chase and Sophie's story, chances are if you enjoyed this one, you'll love the other books in the series. If you are an avid reader like myself - this is a great next chapter in the HOT series.

I'll admit, I had my reservations going into this one, I'm not a fan of step sibling relationships, perhaps because I didn't enjoy the ones I've read so far, but after my initial reservations, it felt like a non issue. They weren't brought up together as siblings and don't have that relationship. I loved that this one was so fast paced, the action starts right from the first chapter. Harris teases us again with little tastes of Mendez outside of work. I gotta say I'm really looking forward to finally reading his book.

I would definitely recommend picking this book up, I really enjoyed it.

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Have you tried the series?  Let me know what you think :)

Until next time, happy reading


Thursday, 3 March 2016

Book Review | Island Home by Tim Winton

Island HomeIsland Home by Tim Winton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a beautifully written memoir, not exactly what I'd expected, I thought it would be all about Winton, maybe I should've paid more attention to the 'A Landscape Memoir' part of the title! It is a collection of vignettes from Winton's childhood growning up in WA and those places today.

This was an evocative read, I loved the story of the blow hole rock, I felt drawn back to parts of my childhood by the beach, with summer's spent fossicking at the beach and swimming through caves similar to the one Winton describes. I liked his thoughts behind why we like architecture - we've gotten rid of all these amazing natural structures, so we compensate with man made beauty.

I didn't realise that this would focus so much on conservationism and environment, it was a nice surprise but also a sad one, Winton mentions that Australia has one of the highest level of animal extinction in the world. He also mentions the losses Western Australia has experienced to the landscape via over farming and poor land management. I feel like I learned something without being preached at.

This one was recommended to me by a patron at work and I'm really happy that I read it, rather than letting it sit on Mt. TBR.

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Until next time, happy reading.


Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review | The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the premise of this story, this is not a book about a superhuman teen sweeping in to save the world, this is about the kid in the background (Mikey). This is about the kid that no one notices. I drew comparisons between Buffy and The Scooby Gang - who wouldn't, what with all the talk of the Chosen One and being helpless to save the world again.

Each chapter begins with what is happening to the Chosen Ones, or as Ness calls them, the Indie Kids. Reading this in print format, these short asides would've made more sense. As I listened to this, I couldn't distinguish them from Mikey and his story and for the first few chapters I was wondering what the hell was going on. Luckily I'm not a complete idgit and I figured out what was happening.

I did like Ness' thoughts on mental illness, (Mikey suffers from OCD), and I can't remember where in the book this sentence is, but I just really like thought behind it. There are so many people struggling with mental illness and for the most part, are treated differently because of it. And you can bet that if they had cancer there would be sympathy and understanding instead of people laughing behind your back because you're a weirdo freak. Ness has created wonderfully diverse characters for his book and I enjoy that. I like his writing style and I don't feel like he's written them by numbers or to fill a criteria.

"It's when your emotions become too big. Medications won't get rid of it but it lets you manage it. If you had cancer, diabetes you wouldn't consider taking medication a failing."

Overall, this was a middle of the road read, I didn't love it, but I enjoyed it enough to keep listening. I can't quite put my finger on why it didn't wow me, maybe because the book centers on the everyday, the boring things that we all do, they aren't doing the exciting save the world, end the apocalypse things or maybe The Scooby Gang still has my heart.

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Until next time, happy reading :)


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Book Reviews | Reading Roundup

I am thoroughly behind on my reviewing  - pretty much on all the platforms I post reviews.  As always life gets in the way, so I thought I would share some quick reviews of some of the books I've read over the last couple months.

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the books that we we're looking into for book club, and I have to say I enjoyed it much more than Ape House by Sara Gruen, (another we had purchased last year). For me there was plenty to discuss, not just about the book and it's characters but also the ethics surrounding animal testing etc. I struggled at times with descriptions and this is another book that has made me think more about how we treat animals, each other and our world in general.

I enjoyed the unconventional narration of the story, one thing I would've like to have see was more than one narrator - possibly from Lowell's perspective. Because it is all from Rosemary's perspective I feel like there were times when it would've benefited from someone else viewpoint. I think Rosemary starting in the middle was essential. I agree, knowing certain elements before that would've changed my feelings about the story. Overall, on the surface this was an easy, fast paced read. But ultimately one which made me think about a subject matter that is not entirely comfortable to discuss.

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There were parts of this I thoroughly enjoyed, it's interesting to read about the creative process. There were many times when I had 'Yes!' moments, but I didn't agree with everything Gilbert said - for the most part about education, or higher learning to be specific and her creative experiences was/is quite spiritual, (it's her experience so she can interpret it that way), but I don't really agree with it, or at least to that degree.

I thought this was narrated well, (by the author) and it's something I would happily listen to again, it was a quick, captivating read. I'd recommend this, not just to 'creative' people, it's a self help book, without being preachy which is a plus.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
 This is an uncomfortable read, but compelling read, made all the scarier because it is real. The idea of being locked in a a tiny room for seven years is abhorrent and to know that there are people in the world like this is generally not something I like to think about.

Donoghue's decision to have 5 year old Jack be our narrator is an interesting one, (at least to me). I haven't read any interviews with the author so I don't know why she chose to do so. Possibly to make reading and writing it a little easier, (Is that even possible?) But to have Ma experiencing things in the background while Jack is counting his teeth, or how many 'squeaks' in one way makes it easier to read - I say this lightly, as an adult - I know that Ma is going through something truly horrific, but by not focusing on it makes it less real. Does that make sense? Hopefully.

Despite the hard subject matter I found it easy to listen to. Our protagonist is 5, so of course the audio narration reflects this. I though the audio was well done. 

Three books I recently read, have you read any of these?  What did you think?  

Until next time, happy reading :)


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