We had a split meeting this month. Brad hosted the Zoom version from his current location in South Carolina. We had the in-person version at our house. Perhaps next month we will be able to all be together!

Rodney started us off with Lincoln, The Fire of Genius by David J. Kent. Good biography with an emphasis on Lincoln’s commitment to science and technology and how this helped modernize America. Darwin and Lincoln were born in the same year. One important question of the age was whether there was a separate creation event for each race — white, black, oriental, etc. This idea had political ramifications concerning slavery. Rodney also brought us a couple of Modern Library collections. 100 Years’ Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories, 1841–1941. Edited by Ellery Queen. The success of Sherlock Holmes inspired many imitations. This volume contains many of these stories. Another collection of seasonal stories was Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, Edited by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser. It was fun to see how many of these authors and stories we were familiar with.

David had read Tesla: Inventor of the Modern, by Richard Munson. Tesla was born in Serbia. After traveling around Europe, he migrated to America. He invented radio, robots, remote control, electric induction motors, and more. He had plans for cell phones, the Internet, death ray weapons, and interstellar communications. Another book David read was Gallant by V. E. Schwab. Good supernatural gothic story for young adults.

Cynthia had read a new book by Jayne Castle (aka Jane Anne Krentz) called Sweetwater and the Witch. This is a sequel to a book written several years ago. A romance/sci-fi novel set on a planet called Harmony, it is a pretty standard boy meets girl under trying circumstances. After several trials and surprises, all ends well. Harmony had been a part of Earth that was separated by a natural disaster several hundred years before this story occurred. This allows the author to invent new technologies, friendly critters, and unfriendly ruins.

Coleen continued her journey through Jane Austen by reading Mansfield Park. I normally don’t find Austen boring, but Mansfield Park was 350 pages of boredom followed by 30 pages of action. One reviewer mentioned that the author had finally addressed the horrors of the sugar trade in the Caribbean. Only found a brief mention of this and nothing that exposed the horrors. I also am reading Northanger Abbey. I have read this before. The first part is a normal Austen novel of manners set in Bath and the social scene there. The second part is a Gothic story set in an old abbey that some of the characters introduced in Bath reside in. They invite the main character to come visit. Someone mentioned that Austen meant this as a parody of Gothic novels, but I have no proof of that. I also reread Premeditated Myrtle, by Elizabeth C. Bunce. The author is a local Kansas City resident. Myrtle is a precocious 11-year-old whose mother has died. Her father is the local prosecutor. She has a governess from French Guiana. Myrtle observed unusual activity or lack of activity at her next-door neighbor’s house one morning. She decides that the elderly woman has been murdered. The rest of the book is concerned with solving the murder. Interesting topics involve the elusive Golden Slipper lily, cats, more lilies, suspicious relatives, new crime solving techniques, etc. If you like the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley, you would probably like Myrtle.

Barb attended the Zoom session. She read Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us, by Rachel Aviv. Aviv questions how mental health diagnoses affect the perception of self in deftly drawn portraits of a variety of individuals, including herself. The Ink Black Heart, by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling) is the latest entry in the Cormoran Strike series. It revolves around the knifing and murder of the creators of a popular web cartoon. The story is convoluted and not particularly gripping. The book is long with extended chat sessions, is difficult to follow and the personal relationships of the continuing characters are not compelling. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, is a well written, imaginative, and satisfying novel narrated by a sixteen-year-old Japanese American girl who may or may not have survived the 2011 tsunami, and a Japanese American writer living on an island off the coast of British Columbia who finds the teenager’s diary washed ashore after the catastrophe.

That’s all for October! Come next month and share what you have been reading. Second Sunday of every month. Conversation at 2:00 p.m. Book talk starting at 2:30 p.m. or whenever we ring the bell. You can always come late if you want to. Treats are welcome but not required. Just you and your books!