What I’m Reading Wednesday – January 25, 2023

This past week, I finished up my audiobook, as well as the print book I had been reading, so here are brief reviews on those:

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner: This historical fiction follows the life of Catherine de Medici, who was married to Henri, the second son of Francis the 1st. Henri became the heir and eventual king of France following the death of his older brother. He also died fairly young (40) and Catherine went on to act as regent for their sons Francis II (who was married to Mary Queen of Scots as a teenager), Charles the 9th and Henri the 3rd. This book is filled with all the court intrigues of the mid to late 16th century in France, complete with mistresses wielding vast amounts of power, wars of religious persecution between the Catholics (the court were Catholic) and French Huguenots, foreign diplomacy with Spain, England and Scotland, as well as bleak prophesies for Catherine’s family fed to her by Nostradamus and other court astronomers. Gortner does a great job bringing this glittering court to life. Catherine is portrayed as a strong woman who fully embraces her adopted country of France and strives to do her best for the country, as well as her family. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Mary, Queen of Scots’s time in France. It made a profound impression on her, both personally and from a statehood point of view, and it was nice to have that part of Mary’s story expanded on here too. I listened to this one on audiobook and have a couple other titles by this author that I picked up during a sale to enjoy in the future. 4/5 stars.

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey: This is also historical fiction, billed as an historical mystery, but I didn’t find the mystery part particularly compelling. The book is written in reverse order in the 4 days leading up to Lent, 1491. It is set in rural England, in a very small village, where the local priest tends to his flock (and is also the narrator of this story). The book opens with a local man reporting he found a body of one of the wealthier villages floating in the river, but the body then disappears. What actually happened unfolds as the story continues back in time to the day before the body was found. The first 25% of this book was really confusing for me. I struggled to make any sense of it, and was often bogged down in the prose. While Harvey builds an amazingly detailed picture of a place in time so real you can hear the wind blowing across the fields and the river racing downstream, this book felt tedious to read throughout most of it. The pace picked up as the final 25% revealed the secrets the priest had been keeping, but I wanted more of a satisfactory conclusion. 3-1/2 stars (mostly for the descriptive language).

Currently, I am reading Eager by Ben Goldfarb, a nonfiction book on beavers, their natural history and their impact on the environments they live in, as well as modern-day conflicts with landowners. I am listening to another nonfiction, The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold, which is a social history of the five women who were the victims of Jack the Ripper in late 19th century London. More to come on these once they’re finished up!

5 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Wednesday – January 25, 2023

  1. I’m really liking The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. I think I’m more than halfway though and it’s been great so far. I’m also reading Nora Robert’s The Becoming which is the second book in her Dragon Heart Legacy Trilogy. I’m not over the moon about it and sometimes I think she tries a little too hard to be socially current, but it’s entertaining. I also read her Chronicles of The One Trilogy and mostly liked those books, so I’m giving this series a try.

    1. It is really good and a book everyone should probably read. If you don’t have them on radar, I watch booktube podcasts (on YouTube) with A Book Olive and Supposedly Fun, both of whom, particularly Olive, who hosts #nonfiction November. She also likes natural history/science books and is a freelance book reviewer, so I find a lot of overlap between her likes and mine.

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