Recent Reads: She-Wolves: the Notorious Queens of England was a Christmas gift, and I’m making an effort to get through my stacks of non-fiction this year (oh, god, I haven’t updated my TBR page for 2018 yet…), so I dug right in.

It’s what it sounds like: a history of England’s most notorious queens, and it reads, I’m afraid, like someone’s dissertation. There’s a great deal of “this is what I’m going to say” “here’s me saying what I’m going to say” “now that I’ve said it, let me summarize what I said” in the chapter structures. Furthermore, partly because the author is discussing the histories of women who lived as long as 1200 years ago and about whom most contemporary accounts were written by their enemies (or at least, ecclesiastical men for whom women were an often alarming mystery), and partly because dissertations are encouraged to be as speculative as humanly possible, there is rarely a paragraph that doesn’t have several instances of “may have, probably, perhaps, could have” and variations on avoiding saying anything with certainty.

That said, it also nicely weds various types of notoriety together in often rather elegant transitions, and the pedancy of the structure doesn’t take away from the interesting topic. I learned more about pre-Elizabethan English queens than I’d ever known (and also that pre-Norman-conquest they had much more interesting names: Aelfgifu and her mother Aethelgifu! Aelfthryth, daughter of Ordgar! Aethelwold, son of Athelstan Half-King! Seriously, William the Conqueror blew in & everything gets all Emma and Catherine and Elizabeth all over the place.), and lots of it is just rife for the pickings in terms of worldbuilding and politics and things. I finished it wanting to know more about many of the women (her chapter on Catherine Howard was, I think, the weakest, but Howard as a person was SO FULL OF POSSIBILITY), and regretting the fact that, indeed, most sources on them are second-hand and written by men who had reason to distrust and dislike them.

Norton’s thesis is clearly that these ‘notorious’ queens were essentially notorious because they showed ambition and sometimes political savvy, doing things that would have been perfectly acceptable had they been men but were outrageous and condemnatory because they were women, and of course she’s absolutely right. Tragically, it’s still a valid observation. :p

Anyway, it turns out she’s written a dozen other histories, mostly about the Tudor era (which has been my favourite historical era since childhood), and I’m going to have to take a look at a couple of them and see if the tone in which she writes is consistent with this one or if they’re more…fluid. I hope they are, and if they are, I’ll probably read some more of them. If not…then She-Wolves was worth reading, but I wouldn’t be convinced she’d be an author worth recommending. There are an awful lot of much more engaging historical writers. But! I have to check some more of her stuff out before deciding that for sure, and in the meantime, I think She-Wolves is a pretty good overview of some of England’s…well…most notorious queens. :)

Picoreview: The Greatest Showman: I am conflicted about The Greatest Showman.

I wanted to love it unconditionally. I went in prepared to. Unfortunately, I ended up liking it conditionally, perhaps because I grew up doing musical theatre and I have Far Too Many (Entirely Correct) opinions about what makes a musical work, and The Greatest Showman…missed a lot of them. I felt like it’s a musical by people who don’t fully understand how musicals work (which, given that the music was written by the people who did the IMHO excoriable La La Land, supports my opinion, although the fact that one of the screenwriters wrote the screenplay for Chicago does not), and it felt very much like a sophomore effort to me in terms of trying to achieve a timeless movie musical. I expected more, which would be…fine, if I couldn’t also see very clearly how more *could* have been achieved. I feel like they have half a good musical there and that they really didn’t know how to get the rest of it together.

I thought everybody did a splendid job in their roles. I loved watching Hugh Jackman sing and dance for us, and think he was totally robbed at the Golden Globes. My dad was blown away by Zac Efron, whose voice is so good it made me feel badly for Jackman a couple of times, even though Jackman did just fine. (Efron’s a better dancer, too. And man, I *really* wish he’d gotten cast as Cyclops. He would have been So Good.) Michelle Williams did as much as she could with a very thin role, and Zendaya did more than that with her almost-as-thin role. I loved Keala Settle and I hope “This Is Me” wins the Oscar, and oh, how crushing, I just found out Rebecca Ferguson didn’t actually sing the Jenny Lind role. A woman named Loren Allred did. Aw, how disappointing, because holy smokes what a voice. I loved her song. Anyway, the point is that individually I thought everybody did a fine-to-excellent job in their roles; it’s not their fault the musical itself is desperately flawed.

Spoilers beyond the cut.


I…have been complaining bitterly on Twitter, and somewhat less bitterly here, about the buses in Drogheda. To summarize: they suck. They are either late or early and when they’re late it can be “I’ve been standing here in the cold for 70 minutes” late and if they’re early it can be “I got to the bus stop on time and never even saw the damn thing,” so it’s EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to get to the gym by relying on it. Like, I tried to go to the gym 3 times last week, and only made it once, because of this crap.

So for…who are we kidding, months now…I’ve been saying I was going to take the bike a friend gave me and start riding it to the gym. My time would be my own! I’d get cardio in! It’d be great!

Except, y’know: cold out. And it has been a cold winter by Ireland’s standards, which is to say, I would joyfully spend 3 months out of every year biking in this weather back in Alaska, but in Alaska I had the winter biking gear for it. So I’ve been putting it off, but having been blown off by the bus repeatedly this week, this morning, in grim determination, I took the bike, walked it to school with Indy, then got on and pedaled my fat ass to the gym.

I would like VERY MUCH to believe that Google Maps is wrong and it is not 3.3km, but rather 3.3 MILES, to the gym, because it took me 25 freakin’ minutes to cycle there. And I was very slow, definitely, but jfc I hope it didn’t actually take nearly half an hour to bike 3km. o.O I mean, I used to bike 25-30 miles in a couple of hours…

Aaaaaaanyway, the point is I did it! And then I went to the gym. Upper body workout. O.O Because hoo boy my sit bones and thighs are already really sore and I bet tomorrow is going to be miserable. I wouldn’t say I’ve got great ambitions of doing this again tomorrow, but perhaps two or three times over the next week, that would be nice. :)

day two books!

January was an excrutiatingly busy month and I don’t actually know how I got this all done, but somehow I did. I:

– submitted a manuscript to three publishers
– submitted a proposal to a publisher
– wrote & delivered an Old Races short story for and delivered a novella to the patreon crew
– wrote a 2 page book proposal
– wrote a grant application, including a 12 page book proposal
– wrote a 10 page book synopsis/proposal
– hashed out a film synopsis (still needs work)
– got halfway thru a dissection of another project
– blogged more than A DOZEN times (i’m very proud)
– wrote a little on a new book
– revamped my patreon totally
– total wordcount: around 17K, probably

and possibly other stuff I’m forgetting right now because agh there’s been a lot.

However, lest you think I did NOTHING but work, let me also say I:

– watched 3 Marvel movies as part of the marathon
– read a book and a few graphic novels
– went to the gym MORE THAN TWICE o.o
– passed 100 days of studying spanish
– meditated a bit
– did some family things
– knitted some for the first time in over a year

I tell you what I did not do enough of. I did not sleep enough. I went to bed too late all month, and I feel it. Must try to do better on that front this month. :p Aside from that, though…I think I done pretty good, eh?

Marvel Movie Marathon: Thor: This is really a pretty straight-up enjoyable movie.

Given my recently-discussed inherent level of dubiousness regarding Iron Man, you will perhaps be surprised to hear that the character I absolutely thought they *could not* make work in a cinematic universe was Thor. I thought—honestly, I *still* think—that introducing gods into a superhero world was asking too much from the audience, and the fact that they went to a mild degree of trouble to ensure everybody that no, these are technically aliens, not gods, did not, IMHO, improve matters. I truly felt that accepting superheroes was enough of an ask and that adding aliens to the mix was just too damn much.

(I mean, yes, by the time they get to GotG, okay, yes, sure. They had a dozen movies behind them at that point, and a wildly successful franchise/universe. I was okay with bringing aliens/space opera in then, because it was all solidly *established*. (This is why I cringe at the apparent alien storyline in the upcoming Dark Phoenix film: they’ve flopped around so much with the X-films that I don’t feel like there’s enough *established* to bring aliens in without making it Too Much. It’s why I was *so thrilled* that they weren’t going the alien route with Jean in the first two films, and I will always be a little sad that we didn’t get Bryan Singer’s third X-Men movie, even if Singer himself turns out to be problematic. :p ANYWAY.))

The point of all this is that my expectations were lower than the bottom of the bucket, so Thor would have had to have to have been *excrutiatingly* bad to disappoint me, but I went to it the first time quite grimly, really not expecting to enjoy it at all.

I was wrong. They pulled it off. They managed to bring aliens (or gods) in successfully and in an entertaining fashion, in part thanks to the in-film skepticism presented by Stellan Skarsgard’s Eric, who is a man who wants to believe. But mostly—who are we kidding—it succeeds because Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are wildly charismatic, and because the script is funny, occasionally poignant, and just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek.

It is no wonder Tom Hiddleston rocketed to superstardom on the strength of playing Loki. He’s both angularly, sullenly beautiful and capable of whipping out the most suppressed-wounded gaze imaginable, and Loki himself is such a snake. It’s such a solid part. My memory is that it was a brilliant part, and possibly the first time around, it was. Now the actual brilliance is from the evolution of the character across, what, four? films; he starts out good and by the time you reach The Hug We Were Cheated Of, it’s this magnificent embodiment that retroactively colors my perception of the character from good to amazing in the first movie. So I was kind of surprised to feel that he was only *good* this time, but he was, in fact, very good.

I HAD FORGOTTEN THEY BLEACHED CHRIS HEMSWORTH’S EYEBROWS, THO. THAT WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA! :) Thor is…such a dick, really, in the first half of the film. A good-natured huge lunk of a dick. He’s a total bro, which is diametrically different from Tony Stark’s total assholery in the first part of Iron Man, and, like RDJ, without the actor’s inherent charisma (and, of course, the advantage of story structure meaning we know he’s going to go through a redemptive arc) it’d be easy to just loathe the character. And, you know, I’d…all the previous times I’d seen it (all 2 or 3 times, max), I’d felt that his character arc was too easy? That it didn’t…I didn’t really feel like it..*took*? Except this time, watching it, I really felt for him as he learned Odin was dead and he realized it was all on his shoulders and that he’d screwed up his and everybody else’s live irrevocably. I believed it for the first time, like. So that was interesting!

One of the *great* things about Thor is that the women get to be funny. Natalie Portman does not often get to be funny, but she has both situational comedy (hitting Thor with her car) (twice) and a couple of funny line deliveries, particularly “Oh. My. *God*,” with the up-lilt in ‘god’, and “It’s a *good* look.” And Kat Denning’s Darcy is just the best and I would love to see some kind of MCU movie built around, like, her and Rosario Dawson’s Claire. They would just savage the whole MCU. :)

Oh, also. *laughs* I’d never seen Idris Elba in anything before, at least, not to my aware knowledge. I honestly thought he had gold eyes. I mean, I’ve seen a handful of people in my life who did, so I just…honestly thought he had gold eyes. To the point that, the next time I saw him in something, I thought, “Oh, aw, man, they decided to color his eyes brown in this!” And then sort of slowly it occurred to me that, um, nooooo, they hadn’t… :)

The other best part about watching Thor again is we decided Young Indiana was old enough to watch it now, and he loved it SO MUCH. He was narrating and shouting questions and going, “OOOOOOH, they LIIIIIIIKE each other” at Thor and Jane, and it was completely magnificent. I thought he was going to swell up and explode with pride when Thor went to face the Destroyer on his own. “Mommy! Mommy, he doesn’t have his powers! Mommy, what’s his plan? What’s he going to do?” “He’ll have a bad plan, honey, Thor’s plans are always terrible.”

Dad forgot we were going to watch it today, so he’d gone out and only came home for about the last third, which kinda meant he got most of the best bits (he did miss the White Room scene, which is terrific), and he enjoyed what he did see of it, and now he’s got Thor and Loki established (I mean, he did anyway because he’d seen Ragnarok) and we can watch Avengers!