It was a real treat to have Christina join us in person.  She drove all the way from Colorado to visit her dad but included us on her itinerary as well.  We might even see her again on her next visit!

John was back with us in person as well; always good to see him.  And Peggy, bad back and all, joined us as well.  She had a cortisone shot, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much.

Beth, Michael, Coleen and David joined us online.  Kat was not able to join us this month.

Ben wasn’t able to join us but did send along his reading, as did Linda.

In all, 55 books were discussed/reviewed.  The full list can be found here:

Book Lovers SIG always meets the second Sunday of each month; in this case January 14.  We meet in person in the Chairman’s Office at the main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.  The room is immediately to your left as you enter the library.  Parking is free in the garage located west of the library, but make sure you use the garage’s east entrance. Just bring your parking ticket into the library to be validated.

14 West 10th St., Kansas City, MO  64105

We generally chat for a bit, starting around 2 pm, then book discussions begin around 2:30 pm, more or less, or when Peggy says, “OK, Let’s talk about books!”.

To join us on Zoom, simply click on the link shown below:

You can also open your Zoom app and use these parameters:

Meeting ID: 946 0436 4344
Passcode: 844358

Remember, Book Lovers is an ideal way for members who do not live in large metropolitan areas or who can’t make it to local events to get more out of their Mensa membership.



Abraham Lincoln The Prairie Years and The War Years by Carl Sandburg.  A comprehensive account of Lincoln’s personality and life before and during his presidency.


The Alice Network by Kate Quinn — Dual timeline historical fiction. In the late 1940s, a young, pregnant socialite ditches her abortion appointment to search for her cousin who went missing in France during WWII. She enlists the uncertain aid of a woman who is haunted by her memories of spying for the French resistance in WWI.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey — Good old fashioned space opera. Now with added vomit zombies! This is the first book in the Expanse series. I haven’t watched the show, so I don’t know how it compares, but I’ll let you know. Pretty great ride, but I felt it did not really need to be as long as it was.

Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death by Richard Peck — The fourth and final book in the Blossom Culp series. The first three were pretty firmly middle grade, but this verges on the younger end of YA. As usual, Blossom and her pal Alexander are up to psychic shenanigans in rural Illinois in the early 20th century. This time they have to rescue the mummy of an ancient Egyptian princess and return her to her tomb. No big deal.

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit — An examination of the seamy underbelly of life with the Mayflower settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. These were some deeply unhappy people who took it out on everybody around them. It was marketed as a murder mystery, but there are no mysteries here. Just lots of murder and abuse. Read for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s virtual book club.

Midnight Is the Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead — Vampire (or not) story set in small-town Louisiana. A Twilight-obsessed librarian grapples with the pressures of being the daughter of the local cult leader and knowing that of the severed human heads popping up in the swamp, she is responsible for one. And is her bestie a vampire or not? (We will never know. Seriously, it never says.)  Lots of intriguing stuff here, but nothing ever gels properly.

Instant Pot Starter Recipes by Jolie Fritz — Negative stars. Sloppy cut-and-paste job. Many of the recipes are guaranteed to produce a burn notice, and one instructs the reader to place the pressure cooker over a medium flame. It has been removed from Amazon, but if you have this freebie lurking on your Kindle, just go ahead and delete it.

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper — Delightful, quick read with fun Gorey-influenced illustrations of tropes you might encounter in an English murder village.

The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation by Cory Doctorow — I don’t really have the background to grok the finer points of Cory’s explanation of how awful everything has become and how to fix it, but I love his passion for fighting monopolies and other such evils.

Manly Books by Skyring — Skyring is my BookCrossing friend from Canberra, Peter Mackay. He wrote this for NaNoWriMo back in the early days of (founded in Kansas City), and it is pretty wacky. It starts off almost like a BookCrossing tutorial and ends up with a stalker bent on murder. Skyring and Kansas City both feature in my Ignite presentation on BookCrossing:

Violet (Ma couleur préférée) by Amy Culliford — A very short picture book introducing 29 words to young readers in simple sentences accompanied by photos of purple things. This appears to have been translated into several different languages, and I borrowed the “read along” French version with very good narration. There isn’t much to this, but what there is is done well.

The Killing Code by Ellie Marney — Another Aussie author for the Australian Readathon, but this is historical fiction set in the Washington, DC, area in 1943. It is a YA murder mystery revolving around the code breaking effort, and I had some quibbles with a few (spoilery) things, but overall, I liked it a lot.

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree — This is the prequel to Legends & Lattes, where we see a young Viv (an orc barbarian) left by her party to recover from a leg injury in the town of Murk. Viv gets bored and starts looking for action. She finds a bookshop. Most people seem to have a preference for one or the other of these books, but I can’t pick. I enjoyed them both immensely. But most people do seem to agree that it is best to start with Legends & Lattes.

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown — I was hoping to love this space opera novella about a generation ship trying to return to Earth after a failed colonization attempt, as Brown seems like a really cool person. And I did like a lot of things about it. But the worldbuilding felt very off to me, to the extent I could not suspend disbelief enough to enjoy it.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes — Rhett Samuel Price’s narration of this first poetry collection from 24-year-old Hughes is powerful and moving. I had heard and read bits of his work here and there, but listening to this gift of brilliance in such a young man was an experience I highly recommend.

Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger — Holiday-themed serial killer thriller. Because ‘tis the season and all that. I’m still not completely on board with the ending, but overall, this book is a very good specimen of its genre. Read for Sleep When I’m Dead Book Club.

Murder at the Hedgerow by Fiona Grace — I’ve accumulated quite a few Kindle freebies from this author over the years, and I finally read one of them, as the audiobook was a bonus borrow on Hoopla. This book is the first in a series and features a rebellious heiress in 1928. She is called home from London so they can marry her off. But as in any English manor house worth its salt, a murder happens instead. I get the impression Grace cranks out cozies (she has multiple series going) without doing a whole lot of research. I rated this book as “okay,” but honestly, my expectations weren’t high. I would only recommend this to readers who consume cozies voraciously and indiscriminately.


Jane and the FInal Mystery, Stephanie Barron — The final mystery in the Jane Austen mystery series.  I didn’t like the initial novels in the series because they weren’t written in Austen’s voice, but I eventually got over that and enjoyed the depiction of life of the unwealthy, unyoung, unmarried Austen.

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, Amanda Flower — A second mystery narrated by Emily DIckinson’s maid. Emily is not yet as withdrawn as she would later become so she is actively involved in solving the death of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s young assistant. Amherst in the pre-Civil War era is caught up in the abolitionist leanings of the times.

The Deep Sky, Yume Kitasei — On the Washington Post’s best sci-fi of 2023, a group of 80 women/trans are sent to another planet to escape the decaying Earth. After 10 years of hibernation, Asuka (mixed Japanese and Hispanic ancestry, and half-Japanese, half-US citizenship) goes outside the spaceship and barely survives an explosion that kills 3 crew members.  Is it sabotage by eco-terrorists or men’s rights groups? Is it the ship’s AI system?  Asuka is an interesting character, who solves problems successfully only when she is forced.

System Collapse, Martha Wells — Another Murderbot Diaries book. The murderbot is more human (and funnier) each time and the plot is full of action.

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus — Being a female chemist in the early 60s isn’t fun, even before her Nobel Prize-nominated lover dies in a freak accident.  Through a series of unlikely events, Elizabeth becomes the host of a TV cooking series, using chemistry, of course.  Many members of my family have enjoyed this book.  Easy to read.

The Mystery Guest, Nita Prose — Sequel to The Maid, which a number of us have read.  There’s a lot of backstory in this novel, so much that it reduced my enjoyment of the mystery.  Speculation about why Molly Gray is how she is was better than the actual events in the book.


Rememberings by Sinéad O’Connor.  Best known for singing the Prince-written song, Nothing Compares 2 U, O’Conner died earlier this year.  She had a really tough childhood, with an incredible abusive mother, which probably led to a lot of mental health issues.  This book is basically a diary of what she remembered of her life.

The Rise: A Short Story by Ian Rankin.  I don’t read short stories, but this was free as part of my Amazon Prime subscription, and I do like Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series.  A murder has been committed in a high-rise luxury apartment building.  Lots of misdirection, but the Detective Inspector identifies the true murder, her colleague on the force.

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.  Take Roller Ball, Running Man, and The Hunger Games, mix them all together in a prison setting and you have Chain-Gang All-Stars.  Lots of the ol’ ultra violence.  Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction (2023), Nominee for Best Debut Novel (2023).  Critics loved it; I hated it.

The Garner Files: A Memoir by Jon Winokur and James Garner, with an Introduction by Julie Andrews.  Told in a conversational style, a good summary of his life and work as an actor.  One thing I learned is that he really loved golf.  Enjoyable read.

Beth (Zoom)

The Single Undead Moms Club by Molly Harper.  Vampires have come out of the closet, and getting “turned” is a thing.  Single mom with terminal leukemia goes vampire to raise her son in Kentucky.  Not everyone is pleased.

Alternate Routes by Tim Powers.  Ghosts are real and are affecting reality.

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill.  When an honest look at the world engenders thermonuclear female rage.  Some people can only be cured by death, so something new can grow.

How People Matter by Isaac and Ora Prilleltensky.  Feeling that you matter in the world.  Showing that other people matter to you.  The MAGA group that feels like they matter to someone, even if that person is Trump.

Translation State by Ann Leckie.  Humans have been gene-modded to serve any number of power groups, that have agreed on one set of rules (The Treaty) and thought that would keep their way intact and unassailable, until one person escapes.  Power that depends on coercion is not sustainable.  This book is a new and entertaining way to look at standing up for yourself and asking questions.  It is told from multiple POV, but it works.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.  Using today’s language and values, a look back at what it was like for women wanting to be anything more than a housewife in the 50s and 60s.  Alternately jump up and down and scream and cheering for our heroines.  Elizabeth is a chemist who can’t get work past a lab tech but does not give up.  She ends up with a TV cooking show using chemistry that is actually life coaching.  A very interesting read as almost all of the characters change, and a few people get what’s coming to them.  It’s a lot about what we have learned during my lifetime, and how being able to say “Sorry, I screwed up”, and owning it, actually helps get past it and on to next.  Took me decades to try to get there.

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman.  A band of women in the Bronze age eastern Europe.  How one woman comes into leadership in her own way.

White Horses by Alice Hoffman.  Women (and men) learning to chart their own way against the pull of the pretty bad boy.

Angel Landing by Alice Hoffman.  A woman finding her own way, again, away from the preoccupied man who has found his, and a man she helps find his soul.

Michael (Zoom)

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata.  Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, the novelist Yasunari Kawabata felt the essence of his art was to be found not in his longer works but in a series of short stories – which he called “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories” -written over the span of his career.  Notable selections include: “God’s Bones”, “Canaries”, “Lavatory Buddhahood”, “The Izu Dancer” and “The Jay”.

Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline.  A companion volume to Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s earlier novel, Journey to the End of the Night. Published in rapid succession in the middle 1930s, these two books shocked European literature and world consciousness. Nominally fiction but more rightly called “creative confessions,” they told of the author’s childhood in excoriating Paris slums, of service in the mud wastes of World War I and African jungles. Mixing unmitigated despair with Gargantuan comedy, they also created a new style, in which invective and obscenity were laced with phrases of unforgettable poetry. Céline’s influence revolutionized the contemporary approach to fiction. Under a cloud for a period, his work is now acknowledged as the forerunner of today’s “black humor.”

Journey to the End of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline.  Céline’s masterpiece – colloquial, polemic, hyper realistic – boils over with bitter humor and revulsion at society’s idiocy and hypocrisy: Journey to the End of the Night is a literary symphony of cruelty and violence that hurtles through the improbable travels of the petit bourgeois (and largely autobiographical) antihero, Bardamu: from the trenches of WWI, to the African jungle, to New York, to the Ford Factory in Detroit, and finally to life in Paris as a failed doctor.

Pushcart Prize XLVIII.  63 best short stories, essays, and poetry from America’s small presses.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.  The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

David (Zoom)

Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan.  First in a series of at least four books.  Set in an alternate universe, dinosaurs are the prominent species.  However, man is present also.  They use dinosaurs like humans used horses, etc.  The evil emperor stirs up trouble in hopes of securing/enlarging his empire.

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell.   Trilogy (Embers of War/Fleet of Knives/Light of Impossible Stars) follows a retired sentient warship, the Trouble Dog, who is pulled from the rehabilitation of warship process to rescue people and becomes embroiled in other adventures — including a war.

Coleen (Zoom)

I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie.  Set in summer camp owned by the MacAlister family.  The parents have died in an accident.  The six siblings have come to the reading of the will and need to decide whether to continue the camp or sell the prime real estate.  The will requires that they figure out what happened 20 years earlier when one of the campers was bludgeoned with an oar.  Coleen found it to be a nice diversion from present life and had an unusual plot.


Heaven’s Keep (Wm. Kent Krueger Cork O’Connor series #9) by William Kent Krueger. ****
Dirty Thirty (Stephanie Plum Book 30) by Janet Evanovich. ****
Hide: A Detective D. D. Warren Novel (D.D. Warren Book 2) by Lisa Gardner. ****
The Neighbor: A Detective D. D. Warren Novel (D.D. Warren Book 3) by Lisa Gardner. ****
The End of All Things (Old Man’s War Book 6) by John Scalzi.  ***
Resurrection Walk (Book 7 of 7: Lincoln Lawyer) by Michael Connelly.  *****
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. ***** Read this based on group recommendations and THANK YOU I loved it.
The Making of Another Major Motion Picture by Tom Hanks.  **** It’s fiction but has a lot of info on how movies are made which I enjoyed.  I also liked the characters.


Becoming the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar.  The sequel to Chasing the Boogeyman, told in a true crime style as if the events are happening to the author but it’s entirely fictional. Really interesting story but reading the first book is a must before reading this one.