Monday, December 17, 2018

Comfort and Joy

Author: Kristin Hannah

One-sentence summary: A woman dealing with tragic life events finds herself at a remote lodge after a plane wreck where she both gives help and healing to a little boy and receives some in return.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: We loved that this was a fun, fast, easy and light read that was perfectly set at Christmas time.

Our least favorite thing about it: We thought it was a little predictable and that the tough situations were wrapped up too fast.

Main Topics of Discussion: Forgiveness, Hallmark Movies, Setting, Supernatural

Our favorite quote: “It is amazing how quickly a bone can heal. If only the heart were as durable.”

Notes: Overall, we liked this book and we thought it was well-suited for a light, fun winter read. We enjoyed that the setting was during winter and at Christmas time. The story was mostly enjoyable – if we totally put away our criticisms and just enjoyed it! Here are our other thoughts:

1. One of the first things we discussed was how the forgiveness of Joy’s sister and ex-husband felt so immediate. We saw her struggle with it, but ultimately, it was tied up in a neat bow by the end of 270 pages and it just didn’t ring true to us. However, we can mostly dismiss this because eventually getting around to that forgiveness is plausible – it just seemed rushed to us.

2. Some of us could see the big plot twist coming from a mile away and others were absorbed in it and didn’t see it coming. We mostly felt that it was better to read it the latter way, if possible. But it just seemed so obvious to some of us and that may have spoiled a little bit of the story.

3. We remarked that this whole book was a bit like the Twilight Zone and a Hallmark Movie wrapped into one. These are mostly good things – especially if that’s what you’re expecting from the book. The plot moves quickly, love develops really fast (without explanation, really), and the ending is neatly packaged and positive.

4. We did talk about how this seemed like a departure for Kristin Hannah – at least from the other one or two novels we’ve read. We’ve all read The Nightingale, and at least two of us have read The Great Alone. Both of those novels feel MUCH more lengthy and weighty than this one, so it came as a bit of a surprise from this author. Not necessarily a negative, but just not what we expected.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We spent the second half of our meeting in Lindsay’s living room, giving gifts and discussing the book. Dara told us she likes little things (which is why Lindsay suspects she likes her!). We played our yearly Jeopardy game and enjoyed a lovely fire. We also sent Amberly a Marco Polo from all of us since we were not able to FaceTime her during our meeting this time.

What We Ate: Stephanie took us to Bankhead Brewery in Rowlett. It was a new place to all of us but her and we loved it all. We had BLTA Dip and Brisket fries for appetizers, and Pizzas, Fish Tacos, and Meatballs for entrees. The cocktails and beer were great too! Stephanie made us some delicious caramel chocolate fudge for dessert.








Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Spark of Light

Author: Jodi Picoult

One-sentence summary: An abortion clinic is attacked and a hostage situation plays out with flash backs to the past and the characters individual stories.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The author showcases the human element in the abortion issue along with a balanced, nuanced discussion of it.

Our least favorite thing about it: The sporadic, non-linear timeline.

Main Topics of Discussion: Abortion, Pregnancy, Motherhood, Religion, Stories

Our favorite quote: “We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”

Notes: This is another book that we anticipated liking more than we did. Again, we didn’t really dislike it, but it didn’t live up to our expectations. The last Jodi Picoult book we read together (Great Small Things) was infinitely better than this one. The bar was high. Other thoughts:

1. The biggest, most annoying thing to us about this book was how the timeline jumped around. It was not linear and was very hard for all of us to follow with so many story lines bouncing around. Not only did we have to figure out whose story it was, but we had to figure out when – and remember what had already happened and what hadn’t yet happened. We universally disliked this for our reading experience.

2. We felt like some of the exposition about abortion (even through the women’s stories) was repetitive. Maybe that was necessary, but we definitely noticed it.

3. A corollary to #1, there were a lot of characters. Almost too many. We appreciate that the author wanted to provide a variety of stories intersecting around this abortion clinic, and it mostly worked.
4. We felt slightly manipulated by the Beth/Lil name-game. There’s a fine line between a really great twist near the end of a book and your readers feeling deceived – this line was almost crossed this time.

5. We really did appreciate how stories were used to show many of the nuanced issues and events surrounding abortions or even just reasons why a woman would be at an abortion clinic – for an abortion or not. This was very interesting and we appreciated how it gave the issue human faces, which is always helpful.

6. There was a strong theme of children (mostly women, since that’s the focus of this book) without mothers. In this same vein, we felt that Beth and Wren’s lives almost paralleled too much: no mothers, only fathers, etc. It almost seemed too perfect for the narrative.

7. The ending left many questions unanswered. While we’re not strangers to that, sometimes it still leaves a reader dissatisfied. For some of us, that was true at the end of this book.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was officially Amberly’s meeting and was her book pick, but since she is in China, we met at Rachels’ house. We did get to chat with Amberly and her opinions on the book are included in our thoughts above.

What We Ate: A huge charcuterie spread. And wine. 😊




Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel (aka – the longest name ever)

One-sentence summary: After a world-wide apocalyptic event, how do people survive and what is essential for survival?

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: This was just a fantastic, engaging story about humanity – we loved all of it.

Our least favorite thing about it: The bleak setting.

Main Topics of Discussion: Hope, Survival, Art, Humanity, Loss

Our favorite quote: “Survival is insufficient.”

Notes: We all really loved this book. The story was just so enthralling and we wanted to know how everything worked out. The ending is, of course, not neat and tidy, but there is a fair amount of closure on most things. Our other thoughts:

1. The book focuses on hope as inevitable. We loved this and loved how it was shown in various ways.

2. We also loved how the author pointed out that pain is also inevitable. Not just after the apocalypse, but before it too.

3. We thought the apocalyptic event described in the book was believable, and we appreciated that. We also thought all the details about an event like that and the aftermath were very interesting. What exactly would happen – electricity, water, transportation, etc. Apocalyptic events are often described in general terms, or books take place only in the “after” with no discussion of the actual breakdown of society. As sobering as that discussion was, it was the details that really sold the story.

4. There was a general atmosphere of haunting and eeriness – which was essential to the story (the author nailed it) and unsettling.

5. We liked the discussion in the book (and our own) of whether it would be better to forget the “before” or not.

6. We talked about our before/after events – like 9/11, having kids, etc.

7. We loved the theme of art moving humanity forward and sustaining them through creation and hope. The music, plays, and even the comic books were stars of the story in their own right.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was Lindsay’s birthday month. We also go to use Rachel’s new pool for the first time at a meeting. We got in the hot tub and ate our meal outside.

What We Ate: Beef and Bean Stew and salad. Spice cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert.







Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Learning to Speak God From Scratch

Author: Jonathan Merritt

One-sentence summary: The author takes a look at our God-language and Christian-speak through the lens of non-Christians to see how they hold up, how they serve us, and how they hinder us.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: We liked thinking about this issue/idea some more.

Our least favorite thing about it: The formatting and length.

Main Topics of Discussion: Theory vs. Practice, Words (obviously)

Our favorite quote: “We are word-shaped beings who live word-shaped lives within word-shaped communities.”

Notes: Well, we wanted to (and expected to) like this book more than we actually did. Not that we didn’t like it at all, or didn’t glean any valuable information from it. But the format of the book and the length really got in the way of our enjoyment. Other thoughts:

1. We thought this book could have conveyed the main idea in a long-ish essay rather than being parlayed into an entire book. It seemed really drawn out and repetitive.

2. Along the same lines as #1, we felt like the whole first part of the book – the theory part – was way too long. We wanted much more of the practical discussion of actual ways we talk about God and Christianity. We felt that would have been more helpful.

3. We universally hated the formatting. Specifically, placing large block quotes in the middle of a page was distracting and unnecessary. We felt like that’s something you see in a magazine article, not a book. We don’t need or want that when we’re reading a book.

4. We loved the ideas that words really do matter and that they’re what make humans unique from other living things.

5. We also loved how Jonathan drew the connection between us being image bearers of God and our ability to create. That creativity is one way that we show how we are made in the image of God.

6. We thought it was interesting how he pushed back on vulnerability a little bit. It’s in vogue now, and we think for good reason. We had mixed feelings about this, but it made for a good discussion!

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Burger Island near Lindsay’s house for dinner and then went back to her place for dessert and (more) discussion. This was also Dara’s birthday month!

What We Ate: Burgers! And our favorite amazing fried green beans. For Dara’s birthday dessert – pumpkin chocolate brookies.



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Neverwhere

Author: Neil Gaiman

One-sentence summary: A Londoner discovers a dark new world “beneath” the city that irrevocably changes his view of his life and the world.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The writing was phenomenal and we loved the story and humor.

Our least favorite thing about it: It almost felt rushed to us and left us wanting more to the story at the end.

Main Topics of Discussion: Gothic Fairy Tales, Characterizations, London, Deception, Perception

Our favorite quote: “He had gone beyond the world of metaphor & simile into the place of things that are, and it was changing him.”

Notes: We really liked this book and story – for some of us more than we expected to. It was very entertaining. And although it was dark and touched on serious themes, it was also light-hearted and employed humor at just the right times. Our other thoughts:

1. We loved the characters of Croup and Vandermar. First of all – perfect names. And they were perfectly bad and disgusting. However, their scenes were some of the most vivid and definitely the most darkly humorous. Just really well done on these two.

2. We compared this novel several times to the show, Stranger Things, which most of us have watched at this point. Definitely some parallels. The above and below “worlds” is the most obvious.

3. We felt that some of the characters warranted more development. Richard and Marquis were developed and interesting – but others could have been.

4. We thought it was neat how he used the Tube – the literal names of stops like Shepherd’s Bush, Black Friar’s, etc. Clever.

5. We discussed the claim that, “the world likes to be deceived.” And found that mostly to be true. It was an interesting thought.

6. The way the author describes people entering the beneath world – “falling through the cracks” in our world – is just the perfect phrase. The idea of falling and the visualization of the invisible “cracks” just paints the perfect picture of what he’s trying to convey.

7. We thought the way the “underworld” mirrors our world was very insightful and we had a good time discussing that.

8. The theme of “displaced people” comes up several times. You can’t see them, they’re ignored and expendable. Like Anathesia – and her name is no accident. This was all very interesting and apt.


Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our first meeting without Amberly since she moved to China, but we did get to FaceTime her during our meeting!

What We Ate: Josh made us some amazing mushroom and cheese tarts for an appetizer. Then he served a beef pot pie with asparagus for the main dish. Dara made us a delightful chocolate bar cake for dessert.






Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Author: Rachel Held Evans

One-sentence summary: Rachel leads us through the different parts/genres of the Bible sharing her insights and stories about how it is meant to be read and what we can learn.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: We pretty much liked everything.

Our least favorite thing about it: Big shoulder shrug here. There wasn’t anything clear that we didn’t like.

Main Topics of Discussion: Stories, Paul, Genres, Structure, Proverbs, Jewish Culture

Our favorite quote: “While Christians tend to turn to Scripture to end a conversation, Jews turn to Scripture to start a conversation.”

Notes: We universally loved this book. It came at such a great time for us to read and we really resonated with the individual stories Rachel told as well as the overall message she was trying to convey about the Bible. We’re on board with it.

1. We especially loved how she reclaimed Paul.
2. We completely identified with her journey.
3. We loved that she used stories to get her points across. Loved it.
4. We thought the structure she chose (the groupings of the Bible books into categories) was spot on. We liked the logical aspect of it and it was very helpful.
5. We also loved how she wove insights about Jewish culture into the text – obviously very fitting, informative, and also very interesting.

Just a few more quotes we loved (because it was impossible to choose just one):

“We’ve been instructed to reject any trace of poetry, myth, hyperbole, or symbolism even when those literary forms are virtually shouting at us from the page via talking snakes and enchanted trees.”

“The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things; the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.” 

“The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget—that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out but who it lets in.” 

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our lake house meeting, which is always fun and special. We played the longest Phase 10 game EVER. It spanned two days. We saw Mars and the orange moon while stargazing. We also had a going away breakfast party for Amberly since she left for China very soon after we returned home. This was her last meeting with us for a while.

What We Ate: The usual stuff! Brisket tacos, pizza, veggies and dip. Cookies – a category unto themselves. No s’mores this time, though. We actually opted out because (this is shocking) we were full.













Tuesday, June 12, 2018

That Kind of Mother

Author: Rumaan Alam

One-sentence summary: A white mother adops the baby of her black nanny that dies during childbirth and grapples with adoption, race, and marriage while raising her children.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: We enjoyed the story.

Our least favorite thing about it: We felt it might have skimmed some huge issues instead of going deeper.

Main Topics of Discussion: Motherhood, Babies, Power-dynamics, Race, Adoption, Marriage

Our favorite quote: “Rebecca didn’t know what was the better luck: to have a bad parent you’re ever trying to outperform or a good one to whom you can never hope to catch up.”

Notes: We mostly liked this book, but it didn’t measure up in some areas. The overall story was engaging and raised several questions about certain plot points. It was interesting to think about, but we thought that there were some really BIG questions raised that were kind of skimmed over. Other thoughts:

1. We thought it was interesting how Rebecca felt her life paralleled Diana’s

2. We identified with the author’s portrayal of early motherhood. It was written in great (almost too much) detail and was fairly accurate. However, as mothers, we already knew all of that – it seemed to be too much detail and superfluous because we have lived it! We felt those parts could have been scaled back and the same idea could have been gotten across.

3. We found it interesting that a male author would take on writing a female character – and a mother. He did a fairly good job, however, there were spots where we noticed he was a male writing a woman’s perspective.

4. We didn’t love Rebecca. It’s not that we didn’t like her at all, she just didn’t engage us as we would hope from a main character.

5. Again, it seemed like some big events – death and divorce – were clumsy in their presentation as plot points. Obviously, things have to actually happen in a plot, and sometimes they will be big things. But they seemed out of nowhere sometimes.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We had our meeting outside by Christina’s pool and swam together there for the first time. Lindsay fell asleep in her lounger, the Mama Mango bottle cork popped all on its own randomly and scared us all to death. We also got to smell the after-effects of a skunk spray somewhere in the vicinity.

What We Ate: