I won a copy of The Whipping Boy, by Deborah Henry.
Description from Goodreads:
The Whipping Club explores the sacrificial secrets we keep to protect our loved ones and the impact that uncovered secrets have on marriage, family and society. Both a wrenching family drama and a harrowing suspense story, it chronicles an interfaith couple’s attempt in 1960’s Ireland to save their son from corrupt institutions.
I won a copy of this book a long time ago, but put off reading it because it looked like it was going to be so heavy. It turned out not to be what I thought, but I’m not sure it was better. This is a hard on to review objectively because I just so strongly disliked it. Everything in this book is grim, even the theoretically happy(ish) ending. It’s all people feeling miserable and being miserable to each-other, especially those in position of authority, and all of that misery is offloaded onto the shoulders of a blameless 11-year-old boy. Even the kind characters are often complacent in horrendous abuses. I felt bad when I finished this book and I do not enjoy that experience.
I can say that I had trouble with the points of view. It stared centered solely on Marian and remained so long enough that I settled into the single POV, but then another one popped up and then another and another until we had an omniscient narrator. But it felt willy-nilly. I also sometimes had trouble telling what was meant to be current and what was memory or flashback.
And honestly, I just didn’t particularly like any of the characters. I appreciated that Marian was educated and taught by her father to think for herself and be proud of her differences, something you don’t see in a lot of mid-60s female characters, but I didn’t relate to her. The only ones I came close to caring about were Adrian and Peter and they were brutalized. Peter especially, I felt he was little more than Henry’s whipping boy, like she wanted this horrible thing to happen but didn’t want to irrevocably contaminate her sympathetic character.
Then, it finished with this rousing declaration to protect the innocent and fight the good fight with a strength of will I didn’t sense in any of the characters up that point. In the end, those who actually enjoy depressing book club books this may enjoy this. But it wasn’t a winner for me.
I picked up a copy of On the Accidental Wings of Dragons, by Julie Wetzel, when it was free on Amazon. (It was still/again free at the time of posting.)
Description from Goodreads:
When Michael Duncan is sent to investigate the disappearance of several dragon subjects, he finds himself in a bind. Locked in a dungeon, his only hope lies wrapped in a bundle of cloth tossed at his feet. One kiss and his life is changed forever. Hunted by his own people for crimes he didn’t commit, Michael has to learn a whole new life at the hands of a beautiful woman. Can she help him clear his name, or will just being in her presence get him sentenced to death?
Carissa Markel doesn’t know who this man chained to the wall is, but he’s her only chance for escape. She has power, but, born without a voice, she lacks the means to wield it. One choice, made in desperation, sends them running for his life. Does she have the strength to help him clear his name? And what will her brother, the King of Dragons, do if he finds out what she’s done? That’s immaterial, the real question is… can she keep her hands off him long enough to find out?
I went into this pretty much just thinking, “DRAGONS!” I love dragons, but that wasn’t enough to carry it through. The book is fluffy and I can’t say I hated it, but it is pretty flimsy in the plot, development, character and world departments. A lot of questions are left unanswered. Characters are introduced and then disappear when they’re not needed anymore. Most of the events are little more than a sketched out structure to hang the ‘romance’ on. The villain is a shadow, you never really even meet him. None of the side characters have any depth and the main ones have very, very little. It had a few cute bits, but that’s just not enough to make a book worth reading.
I borrowed The Devil You Know, by Mike Carey from the local library.
Description from Goodreads:
Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. It may seem like a good ghost buster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle–but there’s a risk: Sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him. While trying to back out of this ill-conceived career, Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London – just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That’s OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It’s the living who piss him off…
Surprisingly good. I expected it to be like William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, but it was much closer to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I enjoyed Felix’s voice and narrative, which is part of my surprise. I’m not usually a fan of first person POVs. I liked the side characters, even if they’re only shallowly sketched out. I liked how the mystery unfurled and the world created here. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, a little less so at the end than the beginning and middle, but still and overall win.
My only real complaint is one I can’t pin on the book alone. It wouldn’t be fair to blame it for being one more of something that’s become so painfully prevalent in modern books. But since I’ve become aware of it I can’t seem to stop noticing it everywhere. This is yet one more book using the rape and victimization of women as the backbone of its plot. I can’t really blame it for being part of a culture that apparently thinks that’s the most motivating plot device in existence, but I’m kind of starting to feel like it’s the only plot device in existence.