Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Author: V.E. Schwab 

One-sentence summary: A desperate young woman makes a deal with consequences she doesn’t realize until it’s too late. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating:

Our favorite thing about it: The completely engaging story. 

Our least favorite thing about it: Uh…maybe we wish Addie and Henry could have somehow ended up together? But really, we don’t have much we didn’t like. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Words/Semantics, Art, Being Remembered, Curses 

Our favorite quote: “What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”

Notes: We mostly just talked about how much we enjoyed reading this book. We loved how the author alternated between past and present every other chapter. Sometimes that is disorienting, but this was done really well and made the story flow perfectly. Those of us who listened to the book said that the audible narrator was excellent. We all really loved the concept and set-up of this book and all the different things this particular curse explored. It was inventive and interesting and such a great backdrop for a story. We thought the “villain,” Luc, was so well done as well. He was multi-faceted and developed as a character right alongside Addie. He was fun and interesting to read. We liked that he couldn’t read Addie’s mind and how that made the story more interesting. We all enjoyed the ideas about “leaving a mark” and being remembered and how that was explored. The idea of words mattering and semantics was fun too. We also loved how the historical events were woven into Addie’s story. It was not heavy-handed, but really added to the color of the book. Overall, we really loved this book. It was easy to get into, easy to read, enjoyable and made us think. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Dara’s house for the third Christmas in a row! We played our Jeopardy game and made plans for what to eat at our lake house trip next month (that is taking the place of our cancelled cruise). 

What We Ate: Josh made us amazing Philly cheesesteaks with potato croquettes and White Russians to go along with Dara’s amazing Sour Cream Chocolate Cake.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Author: Rosie Walsh 

One-sentence summary: A woman meets a man with whom she instantly falls in love only to have him completely ghost her, the cause of which she finds out is connected with her tragic past. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating:

Our favorite thing about it: The experience of reading this book was fun. 

Our least favorite thing about it: It felt emotionally manipulative and contrived at times. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Love, Guilt, Obsession, Communication, Grief 

Our favorite quote: “I wondered how it was that you could spend weeks, months—years, even—just chugging on, nothing really changing, and then, in the space of a few hours, the script of your life could be completely rewritten.” 

Notes: We all enjoyed reading this book, but we also enjoyed picking it apart when we discussed it! Ha! Some points of discussion: 

1. Sarah didn’t kill Alex, Hannah did. Or at least she was just as culpable. So the main crux of the story was misrepresented. Or at least we felt like it was. This felt like a HUGE plot hole to us. 

2. Also, when that main event of the past happened – they were all kids. As if children – and yes, we include teenagers (especially) in that group – should be made to feel eternally guilty for decisions made in their youth. We didn’t buy it. 

3. We felt little to no connection to Eddie and Sarah at first. We were just supposed to believe they were in love because the author was telling us they were. The way the story was written, that’s where you start and you sort of get glimpses of their short week together that kind of, sort of, may give you more insight. But also, not really. It was a hard sell for them to fall that hard, that fast. 

4. And because of #3, we didn’t really identify with Sarah’s extreme obsession with Eddie. Again, we were just supposed to believe that they were meant to be together but we were not shown that. And here she was making a complete fool out of herself – not to mention being a little intrusive – to find out why he didn’t want to talk to her or see her. Ok. 

5. The one thing we felt was authentic and believable was the different descriptions of grief. Sarah’s grief over “losing” her sister, Alex and Eddie’s mother’s grief and the irrationality and blame that stemmed from it. 

6. The secondary characters could have been better. Their separate story lines just seemed to detract from Sarah and Eddie’s story, which is the only one we’re really convinced to care about. All the side stories about infertility, friends hooking up, etc. were not really fleshed out and so they seemed irrelevant. Half-hearted at best. 

7. The author appears to be obsessed with describing GRASS. Why? We were perplexed by her multiple and extensive descriptions of grass that seemingly had no purpose. We get that Eddie and Sarah shared a love of nature, but this just didn’t seem warranted. Plus, grass is not the only kind of nature. 

8. And finally…the major plot twists just seemed emotionally manipulative and contrived. Also, not believable at times. The only one that semi-worked for us was the big one – where Sarah finds out who Eddie is and why he ghosted her. We still find the plot hole (as described in #1) a big problem, but ok. However, Sarah getting pregnant, keeping it from Eddie, and almost dying from being hit by a truck (or so we’re made to believe) were just ridiculous and laughable for us. We also would have much preferred Sarah and Eddie to work out their substantial issues with their past without the baby to do all the hard work for them. It just seemed too easy and swept everything under the rug that the book had worked so hard to build up. “Oh, we’re having a baby together! Well then I guess we better just forgive each other and move on.” Again…ok. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Christina’s house for the FIRST time ever! 

What We Ate: Gorgeous and delicious cranberry champagne cocktails, THREE different soups, bread, slider sandwiches, and gingerbread parfait desserts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Children of Time

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky 

One-sentence summary: With Earth no longer inhabitable, the human survivors sail through space on a life-sustaining ship searching for a liveable planet and the only one they find is occupied with a species crafted and mutated by previous humans. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating:

Our favorite thing about it: There were so many fascinating ideas and concepts in this book. 

Our least favorite thing about it: The book was dry at times and long. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Science, Hubris, Humanity, Gender Dynamics, Concept of Time, Technology vs. Human Brain, Human Mistakes, Communication and Languages 

Our favorite quote: “If there had been some tiny bead present in the brain of all humans, that had told each other, They are like you; that had drawn some thin silk thread of empathy, person to person, in a planet-wide net – what might then have happened? Would there have been the same wars, massacres, persecutions and crusades?” 

Notes: Lots of discussion on this book just because it was so long and because it brought up SO many concepts and ideas. First of all, this book is straight up Sci-Fi! We thought it was really well-written and mostly enjoyed the story and reading experience. Where we got hung up was getting into the story – we found that a little hard. And also, we did not identify with the spider parts (half the book) as much, so those were harder to read. Those that read the audiobook said that the narrator really brought the story to life, so they probably didn’t get as bogged down as those who just read. Here are some things we discussed: 

1. The concept of the “virus” and how it created the sentient spiders. 
2. The reverse gender dynamics of the spiders allowed for a lot of social commentary, which was interesting. 
3. The theme of time was BIG in this book. The sleep chambers, not dreaming, uploading brains to computers – all of it was interesting. 
4. The idea that humans repeat the same mistakes no matter their circumstances was well laid out in the book and also interesting. 
5. Communication was another big theme. Human to spider, spider to spider, human to earlier human. Lots of cool things to think about here. 
6. The ending was satisfying and really well thought out. We were all impressed by it. We did not know how the battle for the planet would end or who we wanted to win. So, well done, Tchaikovsky, as we assume that was his goal. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Stephanie’s house and got to celebrate Lindsay’s birthday. 

What We Ate: Quesadillas, Salmon and black bean tostadas, street corn, tortilla soup, and sopapilla cheesecake for dessert.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hidden Valley Road

Author: Robert Kolker

One-sentence summary: A large family deals with debilitating and life-changing mental illnesses among their children, which leads scientists and doctors to use their family as a case study on schizophrenia among other things.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: This story was so fascinating to read about.

Our least favorite thing about it: At times, there was too much clinical information included.

Main Topics of Discussion: Siblings, Science, Trauma, Abuse, Mental illness, Big family dynamics

Our favorite quote: “Schizophrenia is not about multiple personalities. It is about walling oneself off from consciousness, first slowly and then all at once, until you are no longer accessing anything that others accept as real.”

Notes: There was so much to discuss in this novel and in the Oprah video that we watched during our meeting. The book was equal parts fascinating and heartbreaking. It was especially heartbreaking when you take into account the time period that these diagnoses began in the family and how little was understood about mental illness. And also the fact that the family and parents had so little choice on what to do about their sons who were ill. They were trapped by the disease. The effect the disease had on those who were not diagnosed was heartbreaking too. The abuse the girls suffered and their sense of abandonment was terrible. The emotional suppression, which was so common at the time, and also a factor of being in a big family, just made everything so much worse. And not only emotional suppression, but talking about anything related to the illness at all was a no-no.

We both liked and disliked the documentary style of writing. We loved the story telling parts because they read like a memoir, but the more clinical parts describing the illness, potential causes, searches for treatment, etc. dragged on a bit. It’s not that we weren’t interested in those things at all, but we would have preferred more editing or concise writing.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We watched a video of Oprah interviewing the author with more photos and interviews with some of the family members. It was very interesting and the perfect thing to watch after reading. This was our first indoor meeting since February. 

What We Ate: Amberly made us a new-to-her recipe: sausage stuffed roasted acorn squash (amazing!), baked brie and jam appetizers, and whoopie pies for dessert.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Author: Suzanne Collins 

One-sentence summary: A lonely, traumatized child learns craft and cruelty through his experiences of war and the aftermath that shape his views of humanity well into his adulthood, influencing his leadership. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating:

Our favorite thing about it: Another great story from Collins that humanizes Snow just a bit, which is interesting. 

Our least favorite thing about it: The ending felt a bit rushed and Lucy Grey felt like an incomplete character. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Poverty, Humanity, Power & Control, Pride, Loyalty & Betrayal 

Our favorite quote: “What sort of agreement is necessary if we're to live in peace? What sort of social contract is required for survival?” 

Notes: This was a really fun prequel to one of our very favorite series. It offered a look into Snow’s life and some of his motivations and why he views the world the way he does later in life. We didn’t really like humanizing him knowing what we know about him from the later books. The whole concept of power and control, of how to keep the peace, of what humanity is like at it’s core – were all the main themes running throughout the novel. All of these made for very good discussion. We liked the character of Lucy Grey and what she showed Snow. It opened a door for him to see how others live and it expanded his world. Unfortunately, his pride and betrayal would ruin whatever he learned from her. We felt their encounter at the very end of the book was rushed and odd. We get the point, but it just didn’t feel fleshed out. We also wanted more from Lucy Grey. She was a side character, we realize that. But there was obviously more to her than she was showing Snow. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: We were at the Lake House for this meeting, so there are lots of memories! We took Christina out to Eight 11 (as a surprise) for dinner on the way out of town and had lots of shared appetizers and cocktails on the patio with live music. We rented a boat and spent the afternoon on the lake! We swam over by Hell’s Gate for almost 2 hours and really enjoyed ourselves. We played Phase 10, lounged on the patio, hardly dipped our toes in the freezing pool water, but lounged by the pool. We went to Tim Love’s Woodshed Smokehouse for lunch on Sunday on the way back into town and ate on the patio there. 

What We Ate: Our usual menu (muffins, mimosas, tacos, pizza) in addition to Eight 11 and Woodshed Smokehouse. In other words…lots of GOOD food!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Island of Sea Women

Author: Lisa See 

One-sentence summary: Women on a Korean island are the ones responsible for making a living for their families by free diving deep into the ocean for seafood and this story about two life-long friends shows how they were shaped by political circumstances out of their control that change their lives drastically. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating:

Our favorite thing about it: We absolutely loved learning about the history of the Hysenseo. It was fascinating. 

Our least favorite thing about it: The political history was a little hard to follow from the story. We had to look up a lot of the things that were mentioned to understand what was going on. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Friendship, Gender Politics, History, Honor, Shame, Secrets 

Our favorite quote: “The sea is better than a mother. You can love your mother, and she still might leave you. You can love or hate the sea, but it will always be there. Forever. The sea has been the center of her life. It has nurtured her and stolen from her, but it has never left.” 

Notes: We universally enjoyed this book and the story. We have enjoyed so many of See’s books. She’s just great at characters and story. Along with that, she weaves in history beautifully so that you get a glimpse of what life may have been like for an entirely different culture than your own. And the Hysenseo divers could not lead more different lives than us! We were fascinated at their methods, their determination, their courage, their skills, their resistance to cold…the list goes on. This was just endlessly fascinating. Although we were confused by some of the political backdrop (and needed Google to fill in the blanks) that didn’t really distract from the experience of reading this novel. The commentary on friendship within the context of this particular culture was part of our discussion as well. The ideas of shame and secrecy as it relates to that are in some ways foreign to us – and yet we understood some of it. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: We had our meeting outside on the patio and got in the hot tub after dinner! 

What We Ate: I do not remember! And no photos of the food!