We started off the New Year with several new readers – all from Colorado. We were happy to hear from Michael after several months. And we said a final goodbye to our friend Rodney, who passed away just three days before our group met.
Beth joined us again. She likes to read Sci-Fi, history, anthropology, genetics, and human migration. She read a couple of books reported on last month—The Maid by Nita Prose and The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff. Continued the theme with American Rebels: How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution by Nina Sankovitch and ended up with Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman.
Jim retired from the computer storage industry. His interests are sciences, Sci-Fi, fantasy, and world religions. He reported on The Time Thief by Linda Buckley-Archer. This is the second book in a trilogy in which two people from the 21st century are transported back to 1763, along with some cutting edge technology. Next is The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, now a movie on Netflix. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson, a time travel fantasy series.
Linda is currently working in IT. She likes murder mysteries, preferably series read in order of publication (me too!). That said, neither of her books are murder mysteries! The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough, written at the time of the centennial of the bridge’s opening. North Korea Journal by Michael Palin is based on a TV documentary about the author’s travels in North Korea.
Christina (aka Stina) enjoys mysteries and poetry. She also plays several instruments. Stina reported on lots of books. Since I don’t think the Editor will let me have the entire Mension, David and I picked four titles to report on. If you would like the entire list, send me an email and I will send it to you. Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin tells the story of a litter of kittens that happened to be born with wings. The author wrote several books of their adventures. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmér, is the first book in the Riverworld series. Everyone who ever lived is resurrected on a planet with a huge river. The main character is Sir Richard Francis Burton (a real-life explorer). He collects a party to journey to the headwaters of the river. His main enemy is Hermann Göring. Reviews indicate this is the best book in the series. Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice by Eric Dregni, tells the story of Frank J. Zamboni who revolutionized ice rink maintenance when he invented his ice resurfacing machine. In The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood, Judith witnesses a murder. The police don’t believe her story, so she sets out to solve the murder with two friends—a dog walker and the Vicar’s wife.
Michael is a retired academic who has spent 35 years of his life overseas. He brings an interesting viewpoint in his reading. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of the Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, documents stories of African Americans who migrated to the northern and western cities during the 20th century. The Four Wise Men by Michel Tournier tells the tale of the three wise men on their journeys to Bethlehem and adds the story of a fourth wise man who arrived later. (Sounds like a good book to read during Advent next year.) What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula is an account of Buddha’s teachings, introducing the complexities of the subject. Also on his list is Pushcart Prize XLVII: Best of the Small Presses edited by Bill Henderson, a collection of 60 stories, poems, and essays from dozens of small literary presses.
Peggy likes mysteries, Sci-Fi, history. She read A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny, the 18th in the Three Pines series. This one tells the story of how Gamache met his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Not her favorite, but still worth reading. Next up was Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a retelling of Dickens’ David Copperfield, set in Appalachian Virginia. Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen is the story of two sisters, the true meaning of success, and qualities in life that matter most. Or as Peggy put it, “rich people problems.” The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, tells the tale of an extended Mexican American family who have gathered for a weekend celebrating the birthdays of two of their oldest members. Lots of family stories are recounted. Sounds interesting.
Kat retired recently from a veterinary medical lab. Now she is working in a grocery store where she gets paid to have a workout rather than paying a gym! Her reading interests lie in history, science, and biography. She had read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir, the story of Simone’s early years growing up in a bourgeois French family, her beginning rebellion against social conventions and her early days of her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. Greek Myths: A New Retelling by Charlotte Higgins, is an event driven narrative with women’s points of view at an equal level as the men’s POV. Kat found the book interesting and compelling. And following Brad’s review last month, she started reading the Mick Herron books about MI-5 agents who have messed up, but somehow haven’t been fired. Assigned to the purgatory of Slough House, they are expected to get tired and resign. (Recently made into a series on Apple TV+.) But they keep getting involved in saving England! Kat read the first four books in the series!
David is still working but does find some time to read. Lots of Sci-Fi, plus some Young Adult fiction for another book group. He finally finished The Cruise of the Nona by Hilaire Belloc. Belloc was a writer of the early 20th century. French by birth, he also lived in England for many years. He wrote poetry, essays, travel books, and more. Grouped with George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and G. K. Chesterton, he was considered one of the Big Four of Edwardian Letters. This book is a series of reflections on his beliefs written while on a sailing trip. Out of My Heart by Sharon Draper is a Young Adult novel about Melody. Melody has cerebral palsy, is non-verbal and has extremely limited movement ability. In the first book, Out of My Mind, Melody finds a way to communicate with the world through a computer (much like Stephen Hawking’s). This book follows Melody as she starts to be more independent—starting by going to summer camp! Definitely worth reading. And finally, he read The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler. In 1919 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must investigate the murder of his mentor and founder of the Arcanum, Konstantin Duvall. He must reunite the scattered members of the Arcanum, Harry Houdini, H. P. Lovecraft, and voodoo queen Marie Laveau to find the Book of Enoch. This book contains the chronicle of God’s mistakes and the seeds for the end of everything.
Coleen likes mysteries and spy thrillers, Young Adult books for another book group, plus anything else that strikes her fancy. This month I read an old thriller by Helen MacInnes, Decision at Delphi. Set in Greece in 1960, the main character is an unassuming architect on assignment for a magazine. He and a photographer are to work together to try to recreate ancient temples in Greece. As usual, he is drawn into intrigue—this time concerning the various political factions in Greece vying for control—Marxists, Communists, nihilists, etc. Although most of the book covers about 4-5 days, it is very long! MacInnes’ works have been republished in recent years. I thought when the Cold War was over, they wouldn’t be pertinent any longer. Not the case! I’m enjoying rereading them. Not a Creature Was Stirring by Jane Haddam was my next book. Published in 1990, this story is about Gregor Demarkian, a retired chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. Gregor is at loose ends after the death of his wife. His priest asks him to meet with a wealthy man. When Gregor arrives at the man’s mansion, he has been murdered. Local police are eager to have Gregor take over since it is Christmas Eve. Worth reading. And last, a rereading of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. Think The Breakfast Club with murder. Five students are in detention one afternoon. Only four get out. Who killed the fifth? As usual, the teenagers must solve the case themselves since the adults are on the wrong track. I enjoyed reading this both times!
Sharon has eclectic tastes in books—it’s hard to pick a category. This month she reported on The Snakes by Sadie Jones. The death of a family member brings up long hidden secrets. She enjoyed it. She also read Run by Ann Patchett. Set in Boston over a period of 24 hours, this book shows us how privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart, and how family can include people you have never met.
Brad finished Profiles in Ignorance by Andy Borowitz, leaving him depressed about the state of our elections. On a more enjoyable note, he read the next book in the series by Mick Herron, London Rules. He started a series by John Scalzi with The Collapsing Empire. In the future, a group of planets and stations have evolved around a phenomenon called the Flow. Think one-way wormholes. A scientist has predicted that the Flow is going to end soon. Since most of the places people live are not habitable by themselves, life must change. Desert Star by Michael Connelly is a Harry Bosch story. Bosch has “retired” from the LAPD. He is asked by Rene Ballard to join her new Cold Case team—as a volunteer. Very enjoyable. Brad tried out Louise Penny by reading the first book in her Three Pines series, Still Life. He is not a fan. He enjoyed Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. For those who don’t know about Jim Thorpe, he was a Native American athlete who won gold medals at the 1912 Olympics, played minor and major league baseball, played professional football, and was possibly the greatest athlete America has ever seen. He faced multiple obstacles—many of which were outside of his control. This is a new biography. It sounds interesting to me. Brad’s last couple of books are related. Corrections in Ink: A Memoir by Keri Blakinger, is a tale of addiction, prison, and redemption. The author now works as a journalist specializing in prison issues. Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald, is last. The author had just graduated with a master’s degree in Library Science, but it was December 2008, the Great Recession. The only job she could find was as a librarian in a men’s prison. This is the story of two years she spent as the prison librarian.
We had more people this month than we have had in a long time. Six in person, five on Zoom. I wonder if we can get to a dozen. Lots of interesting books!
Come see us next month—either in person or on Zoom. Chat at 2:00 p.m., book talk at 2:30 p.m. until we get done. (If you need to leave early, we’ll let you go first!) Snacks are welcome but not required. Just you and your books!