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 :)


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