Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Fashionably Late Friday Reading Journal

Welcome to my Friday Reading Journal-on Saturday!  Reading Journal is for the books that I've read recently that I'm not planning on doing a formal review for and wanted to give a few thoughts/impressions on them.

Up first: Katherine by Anya Seton 

 Most of the people I know love this book although I have run across a few reviews where the reader thinks it is your typical gooey romance and doesn't live up to the hype.  I really enjoyed this one although I found myself sympathizing with characters I don't think I was supposed to feel sorry for and at times disliking characters I was supposed to be rooting for.  Katherine tells the story of the decades long love affair between John of Gaunt and Katherine Sywnford. I loved this historical detail in this one.  It brilliantly conveyed life during the reign of Edward III both for the nobility and the peasant class.  Katherine grows up in a nunnery and is called to court to be reunited with her sister (who serves Queen Philippa) when she reaches marriageable age.  It is there the beautiful young girl catches the eye of Hugh Swynford and even though Katherine doesn't return Hugh's feelings she reluctantly agrees to the marriage (because a landed knight wanting to marry a girl with no dowry doesn't happen often).  Katherine soon comes to the notice of John, Duke of Lancaster and both must deny their feelings because they are married.  Hugh Swynford was the character I sympathized with that I think I was supposed to dislike. Sure, he was a bully and had no idea how to relate to his beautiful wife but I felt bad for the guy!  Katherine obviously doesn't return his love and he doesn't deserve what happens to him in the story.  Also, ***SPOILER ALERT*** while I applauded Katherine's commitment to her marriage vows and not letting the relationship with John progress while she was married, once Hugh meets his fate she and Johnny boy don't even wait until the poor sap's body is cold before he whisks her off parts unknown for a nooky-fest!  I was like: "Come on! Really?" *** End Spoiler***.

Once I got past that bit I slowly warmed up to the relationship between John and Katherine.  One other thing that bugged me about the book (even though I loved pretty much everything else): By the time John decides to make Katherine an honest woman it seems like a consolation prize at that point.  They were only married for 3 years before he died!  I really  thought this book was going to be my first 5 star read of the year but those 2 things bothered me enough to give it a four.  Wonderful read though and I'm glad I have Seton's Green Darkness, Avalon, Devil Water, and Winthrop Woman on my shelf because I really want to read more of her work soon!

Next up: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

 I like a good literary fiction book as a break to the bazillion historical fiction novels I read so I grabbed this from the library when I went there to look for 2 other books that ended up being checked out.  This one took me about 50 pages before it sucked me in but I after the kind of shaky beginning I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning finishing this one.  Dr. Annick Swenson is on the payroll of pharmaceutical company Vogel and is conducting research in the Amazon for a miracle drug. The problem is Dr. Swenson doesn't like to communicate with anyone and Vogel wants to know how the research is going.  They send Dr. Anders Eckman down there to find out and when they receive a letter stating from Dr. Swenson stating Dr. Eckman has died of a fever, his colleague, Dr. Marina Singh (and former student of Dr. Swenson) is sent to find out what really happened to Anders and what is going on with Dr. Swenson's research.  The beginning was shaky for me because the decision to send Marina to the jungle after finding out about Anders seemed really hasty.  Once Marina gets to South America though this book really picks up and the story unfolds beautifully.  The lives of the doctor's living among the Lakashi tribe and the character's experiences of living in the Amazon rain forest was fascinating.  Dr. Swenson is one of those people who has no use for others and thinks of nothing but her work.  The plot twisted in shocking directions I didn't expect and the story ended up being more adventurous than I originally thought it would be.  I love Patchett's writing.  One gripe-a totally unnecessary sexual encounter towards the end of the book.  This is a pet peeve of mine.  This is my first book by this author and I will be adding her other books to my TBR.  This book makes me want to read literary fiction a little more often.  I gave this one 3.5/5.

Next: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This book had such an interesting premise: an island where once a year man-eating horses come out of the sea and the islanders capture them and hold The Scorpio Races- a horse race across the beach where the winner earns a fortune.  Sean Kendrick is a 19 year old man who has won the race 3 or 4 times before.  He has an amazing way with horses (both the cannibal type and regular ones too).  Puck Connolly is pretty much forced to enter the races so her family doesn't end up homeless.  The point of view alternates between these two as they prepare for the races and grow closer to one another.  Even though I HATE the name Puck for a girl (I either think Glee or the douche from Real World: San Francisco) I liked this book.  Sean is a brooding type and Puck is a fiery young girl with a lot of heart.  I loved the interaction with the horses and depiction of life on the island of Thisby. Both have very good reasons for wanting to win this race so it's hard to decide which of them to root for. For a book that centers on an action packed super dangerous horse race, this book unfolded really slowly. I'm finding if I avoid the high school-esque drama stuff and the super sappy romances, YA can be a pretty enjoyable genre for me.  This one was.

And those are my rambling thoughts on my 3 most recent non-review reads. I picked up A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash and The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill so I should have a reading journal coming up on those in the near future.


  1. I read State of Wonder recently and thought it was pretty good too. Totally agree that the scene at the end was unnecessary!

  2. I think you're supposed to sympathize with Hugh Swynford (or, at least, I did the same as you!) because later on in the book when Katherine has her--what do you call it?--spiritual awakening, she seems to realize how horrid she had been to him.

  3. I enjoy Patchett very much. I suggest you read now Bel Canto. I reviewed it here, with State of Wonder: