For the second month in a row we started the meeting with a musical introduction. This time Caroline played a classical rendition of Greensleeves. We are so fortunate to have talent like this in our group.

More good news. New member Anita signed onto Book Lovers from Olathe! We went around the circle and introduced ourselves by sharing our favorite and/or memorable Thanksgiving memories. I really enjoyed this.

As I mentioned, Caroline joined us for the second month in a row. Barbara spoke with us from Virginia and Jeanette joined from Florida, just as hurricane Eta was approaching the coast. Peggy, Cynthia, and Coleen & David rounded out the group. Nathan was just too darned busy to join us, but hopefully we’ll see him next time.

On to books…

Coleen read a couple of fun madcap mysteries by Donna Andrews. Murder with Peacocks and Murder with Puffins are the first two books in a series. Main character is an artist who works with iron. She has somehow been convinced to be the maid of honor for her mother’s second marriage, her best friend’s wedding, and the wedding of her brother — all taking place within the space of three weekends. A little murder complicates things. Quite fun and light reading.

She also read two novels by Nick Bantock, Griffin and Sabine and Sabine’s Notebook. Interesting interactive books detailing the correspondence between two artists — one in England, one in the South Pacific. They have some sort of a psychic connection through their art. Fun to open the envelopes and read the letters inside.

Two books she is reading but haven’t finished are The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King and That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston. The first is a story of Sherlock Holmes after he has retired to Sussex. He meets Mary Russell, finds in her a like mind, and trains her for several years. Then they start working cases together. Quite enjoyable. The second is an alternative history set in a world where the British Empire never ended. It involves three young people making their debut and becoming adults. One of the three is the heir to the throne having a little incognito summer before she must join the royal duties. Interesting so far. Lots of issues for the young folk to work through.

David continues with the fifth book in the Harry Turtledove alternate history series. Colonization: Down to Earth brings us up to the 1960s when the Lizard colonization fleet has arrived at Earth. An interesting development is a human girl brought up in isolation in orbit by the Lizards in their culture, and on our side a major character has two newly hatched Lizards he’s raising as Mickey and Donald. What happens when you can only think like the opponent to your own biological species?

David’s other book was Paula Byrne’s Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead. The author of Brideshead Revisited fell under the charms of an Earl’s family with a majestic estate called Madresfield. The characters in his book were amalgams of real people, and the author offers this biography through that particular family and its effect on him. It feels like Downton Abbey but with a cast of much more licentious characters.

Caroline continued reading Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character by Kay Redfield Jamison. She recommends this book because it provides a glimpse into manic depression and how it affects this poet and his writing.

Peggy announced that she has finally, officially, I’m not kidding, I really mean it, retired. Hooray for Peggy! Books she read include Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, by Anonymous. Part memoir and part joyful romp through the fields of imagination, this is a story behind a beloved pseudonymous Twitter account which reveals how a writer deep in grief rebuilt a life worth living.

Trace Elements, by Donna Leon (a Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Book 29). A dying hospice patient gasps that her husband was murdered over “bad money,” Brunetti discovers that the man had worked in the field, collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. Reminds me a bit of the Jack Nicholson movie Chinatown.

Rage, by Bob Woodward. Result of 19 taped interviews conducted by Woodward with President Trump.

The Evening and The Morning, by Ken Follett, is the prequel to Pillars of the Earth. Set in 997 CE, at the end of the Dark Ages, three characters’ lives are followed over 926 pages as England struggles to survive attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east.

Murder on Cold Street, by Sherry Thomas, is the fifth in the Lady Sherlock series.

Cynthia was delighted to learn that the novels of Helen MacInnes are being republished. Cynthia’s mother (and grandmother?) owned the entire series of books written by MacInnes.

MacInnes’s husband was a British intelligence agent in MI6. The couple traveled extensively through Europe in the ’30s, observing the rise of fascism. Her first novel, Above Suspicion, published in 1941, is probably her most well-known novel. Her second, Assignment in Brittany (1942), was made required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French resistance against the Nazis. Her 1944 book, The Unconquerable, gives such an accurate portrayal of the Polish resistance that some reviewers and readers thought she was using classified information given to her by her husband. [I highly recommend MacInnes for lovers of suspense and spy novels.]

Jeanette recommends any book by Robert B. Parker. “His witty language elevates all his plots.” Also recommended is The Spy and the Traitor, by Ben Macintyre. John LeCarré calls it “The best true spy story I have ever read.” Enough said.

I finished The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather. This is the story of a thirty-nine-year-old Polish resistance fighter named Witold Pilecki, who in 1940 left his family and volunteered to intentionally let himself be captured and sent to a new camp called Auschwitz. His mission was to report back to the underground on what was happening there and organize an internal resistance. Bravery is such an inadequate description of what he was able to accomplish. Not only that, but he was also able to escape Auschwitz in late 1942, at a time when the genocide there was in full fury. Still a member of the underground and fighting the Germans in Warsaw, he was captured yet again when Churchill and Roosevelt gave Stalin permission to annex Poland at the end of the war. He was held in prison until 1947, when the communist government convicted him of treason for advocating for a free Poland. His sentence: a bullet to the back of the head.

I also read Troubled Blood, by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rawling). I found the previous two books in this series difficult to read, given the horrific, sadistic content. Troubled Blood was much more tolerable, with the violence dialed back considerably. Without that distraction I was actually able to enjoy the writing; it was a pleasure to be able to focus on character development. The story moved along steadily; I found myself reading late into the night, not wanting to put the book down.

Book Lovers SIG meets the second Sunday of each month at 2:00 p.m. If you would like to join our literary chat fest, please email me so I can add you to the invite list. ~Brad Lucht