Book Review: Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of King, Virile Lovers and Passionate Politics

By , November 30, 2015

Sex with the Queen book coverSex with the Queen: 900 Years of King, Virile Lovers and Passionate Politics
by Eleanor Herman

What’s a girl to do when she has to leave her home, move to a strange country, and marry a man she’s never met? What can any woman do when she finds herself miles away from everything she knows, hemmed in on all sides by intrigue and shackled to a man who may be old, ugly, diseased, a drooling imbecile or all four at once? If she’s a queen, she might just take a handsome lover!

Eleanor Herman’s fast-paced, readable account of royal ladies and their paramours can boast that there is never a dull moment in any of its nearly 300 pages. From doomed Anne Boleyn, sent to the block for adultery she never committed to the scandals surrounding Princess Diana of Wales, Herman gives us the triumphs and tragedies of some of the most powerful women in history. Catherine the Great’s lovers were so numerous that her enemies whispered that no man could satisfy her; she took partners at will, even after she fell in love with the brilliant Gregory Potemkin. By contrast, Marie Antoinette of France had only one: the Swedish Count Axel Fersen, but the French people were much less accommodating than the Russians.

Some of these royal studs were an asset to the women they loved and some were not. Johann Von Struensee, lover of Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark, is credited with helping bring his country into the modern age. During the 18th century, many of Denmark’s laws still dated from medieval times. Struensee advised King Christian VII to update them and streamlined much of the official government bureaucracy. The King, almost completely insane due to a combination of alcoholism, inbreeding and continual beatings at the hands of his tutors when he was a child, was delighted to leave the business of ruling the kingdom to his wife and Struensee. Unfortunately, the queen and her lover were toppled by a coup and Struensee executed.

At the other end of the scale, many of Catherine the Great’s lovers were mere boy-toys. She chose them for their looks and paid them off when she was tired of them. Caroline of Brunswick, wife of King George IV of England had numerous affairs, but none of them were of much help when the King finally decided to divorce her and humiliated her by having her locked out of his coronation ceremony.

Whether help, hindrance, or deadly mistake, a lover helped make life bearable for a Queen. Despite her wealth and position, she had nothing to call her own. When a princess married, her lands and money became the property of her husband. Her children were the property of the Crown, often raised in separate households away from her. Most of the time, she was not even allowed to bring waiting-women or other servants from her homeland. The price for riches and power was unbearable loneliness.

Author Herman does not spare anyone’s character. Some queens were wise and kind, others vain and silly; some lovers were politically brilliant and others a disaster, but whatever the case, she casts a warm glow of sympathy as she describes the gilded cages that housed the royal women of Europe. In giving rich and full descriptions of their captivity, Herman encourages her readers to empathize with a group of people almost nobody empathizes with: the rich and powerful. Gilded the cages might be; but a Queen was never in doubt of the strength of the bars.

- A J

JR Ward – The Bourbon Kings

By , November 28, 2015

JR Ward discusses The Bourbon Kings, part of the ongoing Salon@615 author series.

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Hoopla Film Fest: Native American Films and Filmmakers

By , November 27, 2015

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, here are six films by and about Native Americans that you can stream on Hoopla for free with your library card:


Narrated by Benjamin Bratt (Qechua), We Shall Remain tells the history of the United States from the Native American perspective. With contributions from Chris Eyre (Cheyanne/Arapaho), Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), and other Native cast and crew members (including language and cultural consultants), this five-part PBS documentary series starts with the first Thanksgiving and explores the alliance between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag all the way through the modern day American Indian Movement.

2. REEL INJUN (2009)

Written and directed by Neil Diamond (Cree), Reel Injun examines the depictions of Native Americans throughout the history of Hollywood. Talking heads include individuals such as filmmaker Chris Eyre, actor Adam Beach (Saulteaux), and actors / activists Russell Means (Oglala Lakota) and Sacheen Littlefeather. Through discussions of stereotypes and the homogenization of cultures, Reel Injun demonstrates the importance of Native filmmakers telling their own stories.

3. A GOOD DAY TO DIE (2010)

Using oral histories and archival footage, A Good Day to Die recounts the life of American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Dennis Banks (Ojibwa). The documentary is co-produced and directed by Lynn Salt (Choctaw) and features the voices of activists like Clyde Bellecourt (Ojibwa), Lehman Brightman (Lakota-Creek), and of course, Dennis Banks himself.

4. EMPIRE OF DIRT (2014)

This woman-centric film chronicles the lives of three generations of First Nations women struggling to deal with their past and reclaim the future. Written by Shannon Masters (Cree/Saskatchewan), Empire of Dirt won the 2014 Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Screenplay. Film producer Jennifer Podemski (Saulteaux/Israeli) – who you may know from Degrassi: The Next Generation – also appears in the film and received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.


Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls takes place in 1976 on a Red Crow Mi’gMaq reservation during a time when First Nations children were forced to attend residential schools. Starring Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs (Mohawk), the film is a fictionalized account of a teenager’s experience with death, drugs, and the erasure of her people’s traditions and culture. Rhymes for Young Ghouls earned Barnaby (Mi’kmaq) Best Director at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival.

6. ROAD TO PALOMA (2014)

You may recognize Jason Momoa (Native Hawaiian) as Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game of Thrones, but did you know that in addition to acting he directed, wrote, and produced 2014’s Road to Paloma? Meant to raise awareness about the real life issue of uninvestigated and unprosecuted rapes of Native American women on reservations by non-Native people, the film is about a biker on the run from the FBI after avenging his mother’s death.

Popmatic Podcast for November 25, 2015: Thanky McThankerson

By , November 25, 2015

The Apul TrilogyThanksgiving is the time to get thankful so we do just that. Q: What are we most thankful for? A: The robber baron sized haul of stuff you can get from the library for free. Plus—what is tickling our fancy this month. All of which is stuff you can get from the library or for free on the internet.


The Belcourt

Pather Panchali

The Gatekeepers


One Thousand Wells: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It by Jena Lee Nardella


Savage Dragon: The End by Erik Larson

Savage Dragon: The Kids Are Alright by Erik Larson

“Dissapointed” by Winepress

Adventures into the Unknown


Moviedrome intros by Alex Cox

Main Library is awesome.


Game Life by Michael W. Clune

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons by Michael Witwer

That Man from Rio

Up to His Ears

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

live version of “The Red and the Black” by Blue Oyster Cult from Extraterrestrial Live


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

Movie Review: Spy

By , November 24, 2015


I don’t go out to the movies much because it’s just gotten so expensive. And because I’ve gotten spoiled. Why should I trudge out to a theater with sticky floors and pay $15 to listen to my hard-of-hearing seat neighbors argue if the actor on screen is Jude Law or Judge Nelson? (Eh? What?) Especially when I get the movie for free, delivered to my easily-accessible (for the most part) library. Then I can watch the movie in the comfort of my own home – with snacks and blankets and only crazy cats for distractions.

Which is exactly what I did with this one. I’m usually in for anything with Melissa McCarthy (I’ve loved her since The Gilmore Girls) but after The Heat which mostly flopped in my book, I’m a little more hesitant with my watching preferences. But not only was McCarthy good in this one, but they added Allison Janney in the uncredited role of CIA boss. Allison Janney! This is a twofer!

So the mostly believable premise is that Susan Cooper aka Coop aka McCarthy runs operations for field agents like the James Bond wannabe played by Jude Law. Of course she’s in love with him and (spoiler alert) of course he gets killed in the line of duty. So when field agent Jason Statham comes in to save the day, McCarthy volunteers to help him, and when he goes rogue, it’s all left on her shoulders.

Initially, I thought this was going to be McCarthy bungling into a victory, but she really does have some spy chops. And there were some shocking twists and turns. As he usually does, McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, makes a hilarious cameo that you don’t want to miss. (Definitely better than the Bridesmaids cameo.)

I really thought this was gonna be a dumb buddy comedy with some ersatz spy action to up the special effects budget, but overall it is a decent movie. Make sure to get your holds on now because this list has a few folks in front of you. While you’re waiting, you can always catch up on other McCarthy gems like a few episodes of The Gilmore Girls or Mike & Molly.

Happy McCarthying…

:) Amanda

The Aesthetic of a Book: Wilson Limited Editions Exhibit

By , November 23, 2015


Hiroshima, illustrated by Jacob Lawrence

Hiroshima, illustrated by Jacob Lawrence.

“It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at pictures; one must, without doubt, without hesitations, with assurance, admire what is beautiful.” 

~ Vincent Van Gogh

In case you were visiting the Downtown Library recently and moseyed your way into the first floor art gallery, and happened upon several books from the Wilson Collection and thought, “these books look familiar!” You’d be correct. They are indeed books from the Wilson Limited Editions Collection. Every once in a blue-moon, the amazing collection owned by the Library known as the Wilson Collection gets its own exhibit in a Library art gallery. That time has come again and the title of the exhibit is: The Aesthetic of a Book.

For those of you that haven’t stumbled upon it yet, you are in luck because it’s a pretty diverse and cool exhibit (if I can brag a little). I had a lot of help from my student intern for this semester, Brooke Jackson, and from my supervisor, Liz Coleman. Combined, we collaboratively created an exhibit that displays books and prints ranging from the Bible to Fahrenheit 451. 

The prints chosen from portfolios for the exhibit include:

Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul, illustrated by Dean Mitchell

Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul, illustrated by Dean Mitchell

Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul by Maya Angelou
Artist: Dean Mitchell
Published by the LEC: 2003

A Tribute to Cavafy: Translations by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard
Artist: Duane Michals
Published by the LEC: 2003

Bookmarks in the Pages of Life by Zora Neale Hurston
Artist: Betye Saar
Published by the LEC: 2001

Cosi Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Artist: Balthus
Published by the LEC: 2001

The Heights of Machu Picchu by Pablo Neruda
Artist: Edward Ranney
Published by the LEC: 1998

Sunrise is Coming After While by Langston Hughes
Artist: Phoebe Beasley
Published by the LEC: 1998

Hiroshima by John Hersey
Artist: Jacob Lawrence
Published by the LEC: 1982

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Artist: Barry Moser
Published by the Pennyroyal Press: 1982

I don’t want to spoil the books that were chosen however, but I can say the ones chosen include a couple of my favorites, a few old and a few new, and several that exemplify the uniqueness of the collection. Here’s a small sample of a few of the books chosen:

The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, illustrated by Barry Moser

The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, illustrated by Barry Moser.










Temple of Flora, illustrated by Jim Dine.

Temple of Flora, illustrated by Jim Dine.









The Kingdom of this World, illustrated by Roberto Juarez

The Kingdom of This World, illustrated by Roberto Juarez.










If you’d like to see more, you are going to have to come to the Downtown Library and visit the first floor art gallery. The hours are the same as the library hours. Accompanying the display are several books from the Library’s collection; these books sitting on the window sills are able to be checked out.

Coming soon, the exhibit will include a digital component as well. The touchscreen in the gallery will include more material about the collection. Also, starting in the new year, there will be several b00k-making-related workshops open to anyone to participate. We’ll begin registering for these workshops in the new year. They’re all free and require registration. The classes range from accordion book making to zine making. Check out December’s Off-the-Shelf post to see the full list of workshops. To register for the classes (when registration begins), please call 615-880-2356.

The display in the Wilson room currently matches the first floor gallery exhibit, displaying the books that match the prints (the prints listed above), and a few other specialties.

Other upcoming programs with the collection:

Throwback Thursday with the Wilson Collection –  December 10th in the Teen Area @ Downtown Library, 3:30-5:00

Every month, I bring a few books from the collection back to the Teen area. Teens get a hands-on experience with the books, seeing firsthand what makes these books different from the ones on the shelves. Each program includes a new craft as well that coincides with the month’s theme. December’s theme will be the season/holiday, so come participate in the program and you get to bring home a cool DIY craft!

Here are a few pictures from November’s program:

Thankful books craft           Thankful book crafts


If you’re interested in visiting the Wilson Collection, you’ll find it on the 3rd floor of the Downtown Library in the East Reading Room (between the Fine Arts department and Non-Fiction). The hours are the same as the Main Library hours. If you’d like a personal tour of the collection where you’d get to see the books up close and even get to look through them yourself, either respond to this blog post or call either of the following numbers:

(615)880-2363 – leave a message for myself.

(615)880-2356 – leave a message for Liz.

Stay tuned for next month’s post!

Book Review: Unexpected Stories

By , November 22, 2015

Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. ButlerUnexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler

When I first heard Octavia Butler’s estate had found unpublished material by the famous sci-fi author, I almost lost my breath. Since I knew the discovered stories would most likely be unedited or rough starts of Ms. Butler’s beautiful writings, I was hesitant to read this collection because I did not want to be disappointed. However, on a random lunch break, I finally cracked open the book; or rather whipped out my smartphone’s Overdrive app, since this is only available as an e-book. Upon reading the first few lines of the first short story, “A Necessary Being”, I nearly dropped my smartphone in shock. This is a short prequel to Ms. Butler’s out of print book Survivor–set within the Patternist series’ universe, which feels like a godsend to her most devoted fans! I felt like getting up, screaming, and doing a death drop, before realizing that I would look demented.

“A Necessary Being” takes place on another planet, and deals with several groups called the Kohn. The main protagonists are Diut (Tehkohn Hao) and Tahneh (Rohkohn Hao). Both protagonists lead their respective groups, and both feel weighted by the expectations and responsibilities that ruling entails. Tahneh has ruled her people for a good length of time, but must prepare herself to name a successor. Diut has just come into power, and is trying to learn how to manage his expectations versus his people’s expectations. These two meet, and both must choose whether to follow tradition, or choose a different path for themselves and their people.

The second short story, “Childfinder,” was written for Harlan Ellison’s anthology Last Dangerous Visions. The anthology was never published, so the story was thought to be lost forever. Butler’s cousin, and her literary executor, found this story and “A Necessary Being.”
“Childfinder” takes place in the 1970s. Barbara is a black women who is able to find children with pre-psionic (i.e., telepathy, pre-cognition, etc.) powers, and is able to activate these children. When the story opens, she is currently running away from the organization that she helped start. Barbara is left with the decision to continue with the life she has always known, or to let that life go. “Childfinder” is very short, but it deals with covert racism, classism, and what it means to truly get along with others.

Unexpected Stories is a sparse collection. Although it is a worthy addition for any adoring Octavia Butler fan, it only contains two newly found short stories, a foreword by Walter Mosley, an afterword by Merrilee Heifetz, and a brief biography on Octavia Butler herself. Unexpected Stories will definitely satisfy Ms. Butler’s longtime fans, and allow readers who are unfamiliar with Ms. Butler a better idea on how her experiences influenced her writing, and also shows how her work transformed and became more refined overtime. For those beginners, I would also suggest reading with Lilith’s Brood.


Paula McLain – Circling the Sun

By , November 21, 2015

Paula McLain discusses Circling the Sun, part of the ongoing Salon@615 author series.

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Popmatic Podcast for November 18, 2015: Cozier Than Thou

By , November 18, 2015

The Cozy CookbookFall is the perfect time to get cozy. Popmatic does its best to honor the cozy genre and make you feel warm and fuzzy. Then Bill decided to talk about the latest body horror creep-fest from Robin Cook. Warm and fuzzy—in the morgue. Amanda and Bryan remain true to cozy form.


Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson (first in the Goldy Bear series)

Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook: Cooking, Writing, Family, Life by Diane Mott Davidson

The Cozy Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from Today’s Bestselling Mystery Authors by a bunch of cozy authors

Star Trek the Next Generation

The Prisoner

Batman the Animated Series

Batman: The Television Series

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Host by Robin Cook


Crossfire part of Movies @ Main

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Alien vs. Predator: Prey by Steve & Stephani Perry

Next Picture Show podcast

reboot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 on Kickstarter


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

Annie Barrows – The Truth According to Us

By , November 14, 2015

Annie Barrows discusses The Truth According to Us, part of the ongoing Salon@615 author series.

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