What I’m Reading Wednesday

I recently finished up the final book in the Cassandra Clare Shadowhunter’s series, which I’ve been doing as a re-read with a friend over the last several months. This is a YA fantasy series, set in the world as we know it, but with the addition of Shadowhunters, who are tasked with defending the world from demons. A favorite author of mine, I’ve enjoyed re-immersing myself back in the Shadowhunter world and we’ll be reading another short series (2 books at the current writing) that focus on two of the same characters in this world. (There is also a series of “historical” YA fantasy that are the original books that got me hooked on this writer, which my dad introduced me too, that I’ll likely re-read at some point in the next 12-24 months too.) As with many longer series, I felt like the middle books were a bit weaker than the first and last ones, which are jam-packed with adventure and great character development. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this read and having someone to read along with each other and talk about the characters and plots.

I made a start on Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones but this was a rare DNF for me. I had heard lots of good things about this book, some folks commenting it was like Toni Morrison’s writing (which I don’t care for either apparently), and I couldn’t bring myself to get more than 30% into it. Perhaps the book becomes more uplifting as it goes along, but a 14-year-old pregnant girl living below the poverty line, whose mother is dead, and whose father is an alcoholic AND having descriptions of dog fights/dog baiting was more than I could manage, so I put it down and moved on to other things.

I am about 75% through Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind. This is an historic fiction/mystery, set in medieval rural England, where a man has been found drowned in the river. Comparisons to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose have been made to this one, and it’s won several awards, and been praised for its lyrical writing. I am going to admit I struggled with this one for the first 65 pages or so. First off, while the prose is beautiful, the writing doesn’t advance the plot very much in those beginning pages. Secondly, the book is told in reverse order. So the first set of chapters (day 4 chronologically) tell you what has happened. You don’t know any of the characters, or the history of the village, and you only slowly begin to peel back layers to start to understand the dynamics in this small town by a river where small town politics and religious beliefs color the interactions of neighbors. Having stumbled along, however, and read through day 3 and begun day 2 in this backwards order, I’m finding myself immersed in all of the details and enjoying this story. I’ll have some final thoughts once I finish this one up.

Lastly, I’ve been listening to an audiobook of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, by CW Gortner. This author is one whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past (I read his excellent historical fiction on Juana of Castile and even designed a shawl pattern based on it), so when this popped into my suggested sale titles feed, I grabbed it. I am very much enjoying this one on Catherine and 16th century France, where she reigned as the Queen of France with Henri II, and then as regent for 3 of her children after Henri’s death. Filled with lots of court intrigue, the struggle of the Huguenots against persecution, as well as the prophecies of Nostradamus, this is an engaging read that has kept me wanting read more. Gortner does a great job of bringing Catherine to life, with all of her divided loyalities and struggles to define her role at the French court. (Fans of Tudor history will enjoy this one for bringing Mary, Queen of Scots, to life as well, as Catherine’s daughter-in-law.) I wound up picking up a few other titles by this same author in the sale, so am looking forward to more of his writing at some point.

5 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Wednesday

  1. Based on your prior recommendation I’ve started listening to The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and I’m liking it very much. Historical fiction is a whole new world for me and I’m hooked. I’m also about halfway through the Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy, which has been thoroughly captivating so far.

  2. I had major issues with The Name of the Rose, so I probably would shy away from The Western Wind based on the comparison. That reverse order narrative style really fascinates me, though; when it’s done well it can be so good! I’m curious to see what you think of the book when you’ve finished with it.

    1. More thoughts to come but I think I wouldn’t consider this really a historical mystery, despite it being called that. It’s really more fiction with a historical feel, and I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. I tend to read for fun and relaxation and this felt a bit like a senior English project to me.

      1. Interesting! But that fits perfectly with how I felt about The Name of the Rose, so I guess the comparison is perfect. That book to me also felt like I was reading it for an assignment (which is probably partly why I DNFed it).

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