Sunday Sum-Up: July 26, 2020

  • So. Last week is over. Hooray. The first half of the workweek was incredibly busy, and I’m glad it’s over. I’d get home at night and just flop on the couch and not want to do anything at all except watch a bit of television. Which I did. Some of it was more enjoyable than the rest.
  • A short heatwave is on its way out, and it can’t get out of here too soon. We’re approaching the back half of summer when the temperature isn’t quite as high, but the humidity rises to miserable levels. Yay.
  • In happier news, I was finally able to walk into the indie bookstore downtown and order the three-volume History of Middle-earth boxed set I’ve been drooling over for a couple of months now. It was great to be able to walk into the store again and chat with the owner. It was great to be able to get the pre-order settled, and hand her the cash for the entire purchase. The last few months have been rough for bookshops, and I’m glad that my big pre-order plus the other two books I bought will help her keep her doors open. This shop has been open for a few years now, and it just keeps getting better and better.
  • After glancing through the bibliography of Nicola Tallis’s Uncrowned Queen while preparing for the review, I think I accidentally found the title for the next Sarah J. Maas book:

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I wouldn’t read A Court of Wards and Liveries, but I’d be interested to see the SJM fandom’s reactions to it on Bookstagram.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

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Both the cats have, once again, been lounging on the floor and waiting for cool air to come their way. Sidney is usually over by the cedar chest where my camera bag lives, and Mina is by the bedroom door. I suspect that these spots are where the cool air descends the most, and that my cats are getting more out of my crappy air conditioning than I am.

C’est la vie.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The final section of The Plantagenets proved to be just as solid as the bulk of the book. It provides an overview of the 245 years of English history when kings like Richard I and Edward III reigned. But while the subtitle says “kings and queens”, there isn’t very much about the queens, except for a bit about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France. If you’re looking for an introduction to that era of English history, The Plantagenets is a good book to start with.

The Little Stranger proved to be a bit anti-climactic. It’s an ambiguous story with a strange ending, and by the time the audiobook concluded, my overall reaction was “huh”. That said, I’ve heard wonderful things about Sarah Waters’s books, so I will probably read more by her.

Uncrowned Queen was a great biography of Margaret Beaufort, who was the mother of Henry VII and, thanks to her wits and intelligence, was able to maneuver through the wild political world of England during the Wars of the Roses, and conspired with the Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville to raise an army to aid Henry in his invasion of England, and then unite the warring families to bring peace to England.

DNF(?):

Last Song Before Night (Harp and Ring Sequence #1) by Ilana C. Myer

I’m not sure if I want to continue with this one or not. I’ve read fifty pages, and nothing at all has happened. The characters just keep talking about the upcoming music contest, and how they’re looking forward to it, and the cocky male character is going on about what he’s going to do when he wins the big music contest, and that’s been it. I’m not that excited about any of the characters so far, and the prose is just serviceable, so I don’t feel any inclination to finish it. Has anyone read it, and if so, what did you think?

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What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin, audiobook narrated by Robin Miles (43%)

This book is brilliant. I knew it was going into it, as Jemisin won three straight Hugo Awards for Best Novel, but wow! The narrative is not at all traditional– part of it is written in second-person, and the different characters seem to be living in different time periods, but maybe they’re not. I can’t tell at this point, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story unwinds, and how the different viewpoints intertwine (assuming they do).

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What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I have no idea. I’ve been going through my shelves and pulling out books that I want to read the first few chapters of so I can find out if I really want to keep and read the books, or if I’m going to sell them at the used bookstore.

What I’ve Been Watching:

Cursed
Fantasy
TV-MA
Netflix

Have I mentioned before that I enjoy a good Arthurian adaptation? Cursed is loosely based on Arthurian lore, and stars Katherine Langford as Nimue. I’d intended to watch it at some point, but YouTuber Daniel Greene posted a rant/review about the first episode in which he declared his hatred for the show. This made me want to watch it all the sooner. And while I agree that the first episode isn’t very good, I enjoyed it enough to give it another chance. I’ve made it to episode three or four, and I like it much better at this point. The Arthurian characters are all there– Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Nimue, Uther, etc. — but they’re not quite in the roles you’d expect. I’m getting some 4th and 5th season Merlin vibes, as far as appearance and themes go. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the season.

Wolf Hall
Historical Fiction
BBC/PBS Masterpiece
TV-14

Yes, we’re back to Wolf Hall in one way or another. I was browsing the library’s DVD selection (under ‘W’, more on that later) and spied it on the shelf, so I grabbed it, because, you know. Hilary Mantel. Wolf Hall. It’s brilliant. The writing is brilliant. The cast is brilliant. Mark Rylance is brilliant as Cromwell. Claire Foy is brilliant as Anne Boleyn. Also, it’s great to get some period-accurate costuming, even if gable hoods are big and clunky. It really makes Anne’s French hood stand out as the fashionable headwear it was.

The White Queen
Historical Fantasy
TV-MA
Starz

To explain why I was wandering through the ‘W’ section of the library’s DVD selection… It’s the return of the upcoming Tudor history project, and my desire to investigate the Tudors in popular culture. Starz has produced a few series based upon Philippa Gregory’s Tudor history series, so I figured I’d looked into those series and see how they stack up to the reality of history. The answer is… well. They don’t. Not at all. As a mediocre historical drama, they’re suitable, but don’t look to them for the facts of history. And if you have the choice, just give them a pass.

So why, you ask, do I call this limited series based upon Philippa Gregory’s historically-based book of the same name ‘historical fantasy’? I’m glad you asked. You see, there are many things about England in the late 1400s that we will never know, but I’m pretty sure that neither Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Lady Rivers, and her daughter Elizabeth Woodville (Queen consort to Edward IV) were psychic witches who practiced successful witchcraft. Yes, Jacquetta was accused of witchcraft, and there were a few who said that Edward IV and Elizabeth only got married because of a witch’s spell, but seriously? Both women are psychics? *sighs*

Okay, fine. They’re psychic witches. I’ll slot it into the category of historical fantasy and move on with the show. I’d seen it before, shortly after it came out, and I didn’t remember the script being so terrible. But for a show with the tagline of “Men go to battle. Women wage war”, I’d expected a lot more politicking among the women– especially given their position at the top of the English social scale. But it’s mostly events happening without much in the way of build-up, the women reacting to events after the fact, and a lot of expository dialogue because the showrunner didn’t trust the audience to remember who was who and what was going on in the grand story. I watched the first handful of episodes, and then took it back to the library.

The White Princess
Historical Fiction
TV-MA
Starz

Between The White Queen and The White Princess, this one is worse. Not because of acting or script (wonderful actors doing their best with a lousy script), the music (they play the same two pieces throughout the series), and the questionable costume choices (seriously? Crimped hair? This isn’t the 80s. And the bodices with the flimsy lacing down the front are more reminiscent of Halloween costumes than Tudor apparel). The White Princess is the worst because of the plot.

So let’s have a brief overview of the plot leading into the first episode: It’s September 1485, and Henry Tudor has defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field to become King Henry VII. Henry promised to marry Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the late King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville in order to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster and put an end to thirty years of conflict. But Henry and his politically conniving mother, Margaret Beaufort view the Yorkist line as traitors and so treat them with disdain and suspicion. Elizabeth of York, in the meantime, is still in love with Richard III. Who is dead. And was also her uncle. Because Phillipa Gregory loves a bit of incest.

(And sure, there are rumors that Richard III wanted to marry Elizabeth of York after the death of his first wife, Anne Neville, but nothing is confirmed. And does it really seem likely that Elizabeth of York would have the hots for her uncle?)

So that’s the plot. Lots of conflict between women of power.

But what was the real story?

When Richard III came to power in 1483, Elizabeth was demoted from Dowager Queen to Dame and was in hiding from Richard at Westminster Abbey. She allied herself with the Duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort (who was under house arrest at the time) and proceeded to take advantage of men’s squeamishness where it comes to women’s health matters, and used Elizabeth’s doctor as a go-between. In this way, the two women plotted together to raise an army, bring Henry Tudor back from exile in France, and marry Margaret’s son Henry to Elizabeth’s daughter (also named Elizabeth) and thus unite the two great warring families of England and put an end to the Wars of the Roses.

Pretty cool, huh?

But Hollywood, I suppose, can’t deal with the notion of smart, powerful women working together and so we just get catfights and name-calling.

Oh, and the relationship between Elizabeth of York and Henry VII? Unlike in the show, where they loathed each other (and at one point, Henry was thisclose to raping Elizabeth)(maybe they fell in love later on in the series, I don’t know), the real historical figures loved each other. Henry VII was apparently faithful to his wife in an era where it was expected for kings to sleep around, and when Elizabeth died from complications of childbirth on her 37th birthday, Henry VII never recovered from his grief.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much beyond the second episode. A bad script and worse costuming aside, I kind of hate it when a show claims to be a feminist retelling of history and then provides a story filled with nothing but spiteful women tearing each other down.

About That Writing Thing:

Writing is a funny thing. You can be going along with the final edits, thinking that everything is groovy and you’ll be done with the story shortly, and then something will occur to you and you’ll realize that Character A is acting completely out of character, and that you’re going to have to revise the last quarter of the story in order to set things right.

That’s what happened to me on Monday. I was going along, minding my own business, when suddenly the story was replaying in my head and I realized that Character A’s actions would have made perfect sense three stories ago, but that she’s changed a lot since then, and so keeping her on that course of action would make no sense given what’s happened.

So I proceeded to start rewriting the last quarter of the story.

*sighs*

On the bright side, I’m much happier with what I have now. Revising is, in general, a good thing to do when some element is letting you down. It hasn’t really affected the posting schedule at all since I was planning to post the first half later today, and the second half next weekend. I only have a few pages left to completely rewrite, and then I need to lengthen the final scene by just a bit to give the resolution a little more time.

In other writing news, I received a wonderful comment that contained a great bit of critiquing where the reader compared the reactions to a character death in the last story to an earlier entry in the series, which I wrote six years ago. They said they appreciated the greater amount of time taken with the latest character’s death, as the rest of the cast was better able to deal with their grief, and thus they, the reader, felt like there was more resolution for the characters and for themselves.

I think this is great! It’s great to hear that I’ve improved my writing over the past six years! I would be disappointed with myself if I hadn’t.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: July 26, 2020

  1. I love that you were able to go into a bookstore! It’s amazing how something relatively unremarkable at this time last year seems so special now. Great Mina photo, as always! I’d been wondering if I should at some point try the Starz/Philippa Gregory shows… but it sounds like not. I did love the production of Wolf Hall, and maybe I’ll give Cursed a try too. Have a great week!

  2. It really does make you stop and think about how such special such mundane things as going into a store really are!

    I mean, try the Gregory-based shows if you want to. They’re more spectacle than good. The Tudors, for all its I accuracies, at least goes into the politics and gives you a sense of people’s reasons for their actions, and shows the build up to things like the the dissolution of the monasteries or the Pilgrimage of Grace. The Gregory shows are more like soap operas.

  3. Ohhh maaaan, ever since I first laid my eyes on that box set, I’ve been drooling too to get my hands on it someday hahaha I love that you supposed that bookshop though. I definitely felt sad for all those in my neighbourhood that couldn’t survive covid’s onslaught and filed bankruptcy…

  4. Isn’t it gorgeous?! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I pulled money from my travel fund to get it (since I wasn’t going to be using it this year anyway..). That’s sad to hear about your bookshops! I know at least one here didn’t make it through, either. I hope they can start over sometime in the future. We need our indie bookshops!

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