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review 2016-03-24 06:23
Review | King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels & Eleanor Herman
King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village - Peggielene Bartels,Eleanor Herman

King Peggy chronicles the astonishing journey of an American secretary who suddenly finds herself king to a town of 7,000 souls on Ghana's central coast, half a world away. Upon arriving for her crowning ceremony in beautiful Otuam, she discovers the dire reality: there's no running water, no doctor, and no high school, and many of the village elders are stealing the town's funds. To make matters worse, her uncle (the late king) sits in a morgue awaiting a proper funeral in the royal palace, which is in ruins. The longer she waits to bury him, the more she risks incurring the wrath of her ancestors. Peggy's first two years as king of Otuam unfold in a way that is stranger than fiction. In the end, a deeply traditional African town has been uplifted by the ambitions of its headstrong, decidedly modern female king. And in changing Otuam, Peggy is herself transformed, from an ordinary secretary to the heart and hope of her community.





In 2008, Peggielene Bartels was working as a secretary at the Ghanian Embassy in Washington D.C. when she got a phone call from her cousin in Ghana notifying her that she had just been chosen as the new king of Otuam. Prior to this call, Bartels had spent decades in the United States (becoming a US citizen in 1997) living the common paycheck to paycheck way of life -- along with her job at the Embassy, she also worked part time as a receptionist at a local nursing home AND sold Ghanian arts and crafts at craft show expos and church bazaars on weekends. {Bartels studied culinary arts in Ghana and England before deciding to try out the US for a couple years, her idea being that she would experience American life for a bit before returning to Ghana to take up a culinary job. A family friend got her the job at the Embassy and she just... kinda never left...}


It was 4am, just hours before she was to be in to work at the Embassy, when this life-changing phone call came in, so she wasn't sure what to make of the news or whether she should take it seriously. While there had been female kings in Ghana in the past, she couldn't recall any being in her family's line in Otuam. Peggy is asked if she even wants the job. She debates back and forth, but given the name of this book you can guess her ultimate decision. 


The coastal town of Otuam was the hometown of Ghana native Bartels. Bartel's uncle Joseph was the reigning king for 25 years. When the king became ill and death seemed imminent, the council of elders put together a list of all the king's healthiest family members under the age of 60. Peggy's name was the very last name on a list of 25 people. The list was taken to a local shrine where a priest performed a ceremony where schnapps was poured on the ground at the reading of each person's name, the belief being that if the fluid steamed then that would be the ancestors' (in the afterlife) choice of successor. Peggy's name was the only name to cause the schnapps to steam. To be sure, the ritual was performed twice more, twice more the same results. 


Eleanor Herman with King Peggy

in Otuam, Ghana (Africa)



Upon arriving in Otuam shortly after being named king, Peggy gets the full force of her kingdom's financial reality. Her own family's palace is in shambles, her uncle has yet to be buried (some weeks since his death and that phone call) because no one has the money for a proper burial befitting a king and no one wants to bury him with anything less, for fear of angering the ancestors from the other side. Peggy fears being haunted by her uncle if he feels disrespected. There's also her impoverished people who are fighting for the most basic needs like clean water sources. The local pond is highly contaminated. The local government did install boreholes (water taps) for clean water but charges each family a few cents per bucket of water. The families who can't afford the fee have no choice but to drink the contaminated lake water. Peggy also discovers that many homes don't have working plumbing, the children getting up ridiculously early to make multiple trips for water (sometimes walking for up to 6 hours each morning) before even starting school each day. 


In the early days of her reign, King Peggy feels out of her league. How is she to run a kingdom when she's never even had retail management experience, she asks herself. She struggles against a growing realization that the majority of her council of elders is made up of men secretly stealing from her directly or from the town coffers. She also begins to suspect that she was "chosen" because the elders thought her inexperience and distance (after she decides to continue living in US for most of the year) will allow them to continue their money-skimming schemes. How was she to make any headway in these conditions?!


"You cannot eat or drink in public. It's unseemly for a king to be shoving things into her face. Plus, if there is a witch in the crowd watching you she can make you choke to death on whatever you're consuming."


Peggy sighed. "In Otuam I will abide by this rule," she said. "But in the US, we all work so much that we have to grab a bite in public sometimes because when we get home it is too late to cook. And no one there knows I am a king."


"They know at the embassy. One of them might be a witch. And even if they aren't, it would be undignified to stuff your face even there."


Witches. At the embassy. Looking back at her 29 years there, Peggy realized this could explain a lot of things.



At a particularly low point, Bartels is given strength through the advice of a Otuam friend, "Remember the sparrow that builds its nest one twig at a time." Peggy thinks things over and decides her kingdom would be best served, at least for a time, if she continues to work in the US, sending portions of her income back to Otuam. Her new position brings an unexpected sense of strangeness to the office she had worked in for so many years. Suddenly, her boss didn't know if it was appropriate asking a king to get him coffee! Co-workers shied away from her, unsure of how to address her. Frustrated, she finally announces that yes, she's a Ghanian king but only when she is there, at the embassy she just wants to do her secretarial duties. Eventually things find their proper rhythm again and to this day, King Peggy continues to work at the Ghanian Embassy, sending income back to her kingdom in between multiple visits throughout each year. 


This biography mainly focuses on the first two years of King Peggy's reign. No doubt, there's definitely a pretty cool story here, what with Peggy's interesting turn in circumstances. And Peggy herself is pretty inspiring, the way she takes on a mess of a kingdom (financially) and finds ways to give her people a better life, even at the expense of her own personal financial comfort. But something just wasn't quite there for me in the writing. Something about it felt too simplistic and detached. At times it felt more like I was reading a term paper rather than a full fledged biography. Given the fact Eleanor Herman actually spent time in Otuam with King Peggy, getting to know the community and this bio's key players, I was disappointed with the quality of writing, the flatness much of it had. But like I said, a pretty cool story when you take just the facts in... a story that I could see possibly making a pretty fun biopic someday. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-03-21 22:59
Sex with the Queen
Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics - Eleanor Herman

Sex with the Queen is the sequel of sorts to Herman's Sex with the King. I imagine it was a little bit harder to dig up some salacious examples that had enough sources to be rendered truthful and thus nonfiction. But I must say, the writing in this book seemed two adjectives and an oddly phrased metaphor away from being on the same level as Twilight. Didn't stop me from enjoying most of it though.


Note to self: remember to re-read Sex with the King and compare the two. I feel like some of the anecdotes are crossovers and/or also mentioned from the opposite perspective in the other book. Should absolutely mine it for creative writing ideas. Also, double check with the European royalty family tree and cross reference with pedigree collapse chart. Bastards are not included unless legitimized? May need to make up a CK2 style family dynasty chart to track all of it. (OT: Create your own dynasty mod on Steam.)


Anyway, quotes:

The ancient double standard - men rutting with their mistresses while their wives sewed altar cloths - was rooted not in misogyny, but in biology.


"Consider of what importance to society the chastity of women is," said the renowned wit and scholar Dr. Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first English dictionary in 1757. "Upon that all the property in the world depends. We hang a thief for stealing a sheep, but the unchastity of a woman transfers sheep, and farm, and all from the right owner."

Hmmm... Disagree. Biology, yes, that point is true in all cases (involving humans anyway) with the caveat caused by the new "male pregnancy" experiments - cannot recall if it was successful or not - because of the necessity of the X-chromosome. However, female chastity is required only in patriarchal societies. In a matriarchal society, the property would pass down the female line, female chastity would be a moot point, male chastity would be irrelevant except for reasons due to social morality.


-- "Scowling at his doctor, Louis snapped, "I would have lived much longer if it had not been for you." This accurately sums up my feelings about doctors. I kinda want to embroider this and frame it up on the wall.


-- "We can imagine that many a nervous young man was too terrified to rise to the occasion. His entire future and that of his family were at stake, based solely on the hardness of his penis." This actually made me think about how much more difficult it might be for men to advance socially via sexual favor in the face of erectile dysfunction; a rather crude joke made by a comedienne I forgot the name of comes to mind - "I can go to sleep and mine still works."


-- "His face and his manner were perfectly suited to the hero of a novel, though not of a French novel, for he had neither the brilliance nor the frivolity." Made me think of The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). Ah, Jim Caviezel. <3


Since human nature had not changed along with human morals, male adultery was not to be given up, but to be kept politely concealed to avoid causing scandal or hurting the wife's feelings. The husband, pretending to visit a gentlemen's club, would instead visit his mistress and no one would be the wiser. The wife, of course, would not commit adultery at all. The ideal wife didn't even enjoy sex with her husband, but sacrificed herself now and then upon the altar of wifely duty.

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video 2015-12-18 18:02

Currently reading: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman


The audiobook is very engaging so far, even if it takes more concentration to keep all the different characters straight. I love that the setting is Ancient Greece with Alexander the Great when he was still 17. All these references to the gods and kings makes me want to refreshen my knowledge of Greek mythology. That's something I think I will definitely set out to do for 2016.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-10-01 15:11
Legacy of Kings and Voice of Gods: Review
Legacy of Kings - Eleanor Herman

I really enjoyed this book. i think that this was such a cool way to use real history and add some magic to this story. This book follows two several characters but mostly focuses on a young alexander the great and Kat. There lives wind up intertwine and connection i unique ways. This book was so so fast past and with both court life and war as a backdrop i was really engrossed in the novel and did not want to put it down. The book focused on three stories and since this was a first book only two of the stories Kat and Alex really intertwined during this novel. The story following Zo did not interconnect quite yet but I hope that in the future her story really connects with the other stories in this novel. I was not super surprised the Alex and Kat were actually twin but i am so ready for the next book in this series. 



Check out my non-spolier review



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text 2015-09-29 16:24
More Mini Reviews
More Happy Than Not - Adam Silvera
Darkness Before Dawn - J.A. London
The Night We Said Yes - Lauren Gibaldi
The Fill-In Boyfriend - Kasie West
Lois Lane: Fallout - Gwenda Bond
Legacy of Kings - Eleanor Herman
Unspoken - Sarah Rees Brennan
Rook - Sharon Cameron
Not a Drop to Drink - Mindy McGinnis

More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera – 5 Stars

I’m not sure what I was expecting with this one. It was something I bought on a whim. I think I was expecting something light and snarky. What I got was one amazing emotional gutwrencher of a novel. It was gritty, stark and realistic. The MC is struggling with a sucky living situation, his sexuality and his father’s recent suicide. He has a girlfriend who he likes a lot, but then a new guy comes into the picture making him question himself when he starts to realise just how much he likes this dude. The writing packs a punch, its very blunt yet provocative in the emotions the story brings out in its characters. There’s also a storyline involving some sort of medical procedure that makes you forget all the horrible things in your life. (There may be some side effects). It’s an emotional rollercoaster that made me cry at the end. I loved it.


Darkness Before Dawn  - JA London – 4 stars

This was a something I snagged a few years ago when it was a freebie on a Kindle daily deal. Something I stared at random a few weeks ago when looking for something to capture my attention. A bit of coverlust, I went into this one not really knowing anything about it. And found myself surprisingly impressed. Vampire dystopia! Great world building, even managing to be down right creepy in parts. Likeable heroine – always a plus. There was a love triangle that was totally obvious to where it was going from the second it started. Only thing I didn’t get with this one was the main character was supposed to be special somehow. I didn’t see much elaborating on that. She’s supposed to be a delegate between the humans and the ruling vampire party. I saw nothing particular special about her. Maybe something elaborated in the next book? Unique vampire lore. Fantastic twist at the end. Definitely a series I’d like to read more of.


The Night We Said Yes – Lauren Gibaldi – 4 stars

Oh this was an emotional roller coaster. Tells the then and now story of Ella and Matt, and their best friends Jake and Meg.  Told from how Ella and Matt met, from their breakup to Matt’s reappearance a year later and how Ella handles it was well as a few other dramas in between. Brilliant character driven novel with deep emotional connection. Manages to go from fun to heartwrenching and back again with some great character growth. I loved this one.


The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West. 3.1/2 stars

A reasonably entertaining read, I read pretty much in one morning after the first 10%. Don’t really have a lot to say about this one. I didn’t really connect much to the characters. MC Gia is popular and perfect with a set of really cool friends and one frenemy who she thinks is trying to push her out of her group. She’s dumped just before prom and talks some random guy into being her date. The plot is completely predictable as they wind up in various situations pretending to be a couple. Gia was shallow and obsessed with what people thought about her which got to be annoying. Particularly when she told her so called cool friends lots of white lies. Then got upset when they got mad at her. She did show some character growth towards the end. It was light, fluffy and kinda cute.


Fall Out (Lois Lane) Gwenda Bond – 4 Stars

The Smallville fangirl in me had a total blast with this one. While some of the technical aspects, the scifi stuff, the total immersion video game things went a little over my head and it was a bit hard to grasp some of the concepts, but it was still fun. I think that was because Lois was so well written. Snarky, witty, smart, dedicated and loyal. What else was immensely fun about this novel was while there were lots of familiar names and places that any Smallville or Superman fan would recognise, it managed to take the familiar and make it new, updated and original in its own fantastic way. Introducing new characters and villains with a great build up and conclusion. More please.


Legacy of Kings (Blood of Gods & Royals #1) Eleanor Herman – 5 Stars

I loved this so much I got it in hardback as well as a kindle copy. I’m not really that fussed on how historically accurate it was, it was a brilliant piece of epic fantasy. Multi layered characters, brilliant world building, a unique take on magic and its own densely developed take on some familiar and unfamiliar mythology. Lots of characters, lots of different view points. The romance angles were the weakest part of it, but the rest of the story telling was so completely captivating it’s one of those cases where annoying romances are easily over looked. I loved it.


Not a Drop To Drink – Mindy McGuinnis – 3 stars

Survival stories are really not my thing. I ummed and aahed over this one for a while. I like dystopia, but not that much of a survival story fan. It was a review from Christina Reads YA blog that convinced me I needed to read this one. Took me a while to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did. One of the most brutal world buildings in a dystopia that I’ve come across in a while. Bleak and certainly uncomfortable in parts. The hardships over come by the main character showed tremendous strength, both physical and mental. But even throughout the hardships, I did like seeing how she could soften her heart without being weak as she learned to survive for herself but rely on and help others as well.  Little to no romance and a surprising twist at the end. I’m not sure I’m that interested in a second book in this series, but I would definitely read something else by this author.


Unspoken (The Lyburn Legacy #1) Sarah Rees Brennan – 5 Stars

This one was recommended to me when I was looking for gothic romance a few years ago. Another one I’d heard of for a while but never got around to reading. I loved it. Loved it from start to finish. Loved the magic, loved the characters, the world building, the setting, the writing. The brilliant bantery snark just made it all the more entertaining.


Rook – Sharon Cameron – ½ star. DNF at 25%.

Didn’t work for me. Dystopia. Very slow and boring. World building made little to no sense. No connection to any of the characters. Also didn’t like how they randomly spoke French in parts with no translation. It wasn’t mysterious or clever, it was irritating. Not for me.

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