Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Author: Ally Condie

One-sentence summary: A 17 year old girl is matched with her best friend only to fall in love with someone else while discovering her government may not be as great as she was made to believe.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: It was a quick, easy read.

Our least favorite thing about it: Weak story arc.

Main Topics of Discussion: Dystopian YA Fiction Genre, Choice, Happiness, Love, Manipulation

Our favorite quote: “Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs.”

Notes: Our main takeaway from this book was that it was a fairly fun, quick, and easy read, but not the best example from this genre. We are a bit picky because we’ve read a lot of this genre and seen it done much better. We felt that there were two main weaknesses: 1) The story arc seemed really incomplete. 2) The writing was a bit immature for us and it didn’t have to be. Some of our other thoughts:

  • The idea of an ultra-controlling government was interesting. The removal of choice in order to make everyone’s lives “optimal” was interesting too.
  • We didn’t particularly connect with any of the characters, so we didn’t particularly care about them.
  • The writing was clunky and lacking sophistication, which got in the way of enjoying the book for us.
  • Some of the themes were great commentary on the subtle manipulation of a controlling government: we liked the words/writing theme, the idea of choices and destructive free-will, and the illusion of choice
  • The story seemed to end too soon. We felt like what happens in the second book (which we haven’t read) should have been included in this first book to complete the story. We feel like the best trilogies still have complete story arcs in each of their separate books. This one did not feel complete – and not just because of the quasi-cliff hanger at the end.
  • The main plot was driven by falling in love and making matches. It’s not a bad idea in and of itself and we definitely like the inclusion of romances and love triangles in books, but it fell a bit flat as the entire plot by itself.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Frankie’s Mexican Cuisine for dinner and the restaurant staff sang “Happy Birthday” to Christina while she wore a giant sombrero! Then we went back to Stephanie’s house to fill our tumblers with wine and change into swim suits. We went swimming in one of the neighborhood pools, devoured four giant cupcakes, got kicked out by security at 9:45 because the pool closed at 9:30, and finished our evening at Stephanie’s house discussing the book!

What We Ate: Margaritas, various dishes (tamales, tacos, enchiladas, etc) and a cheesecake that the waitress brought out for Christina’s birthday. Stephanie also had four giant cupcakes for dessert – strawberry, chocolate peanut butter, red velvet and Oreo.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

One-sentence summary: A young woman wrestles with who to trust as she discovers a powerful hidden talent and finds herself suddenly engaged to a prince and embroiled in the beginnings of a bloody revolution.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: We liked the story and it moved along, throwing out some interesting twists along the way.

Our least favorite thing about it: The writing style was all “tell” and no “show.”

Main Topics of Discussion: Dystopian YA Fiction Genre, Plot, Characterization, Betrayal

Our favorite quote: “This world is Silver, but it is also gray. There is no black and white.”

Notes: Our general impression of this book was that the story was actually quite good. We liked the plot (despite some glaring holes we’re expected to ignore) and how the events drove the book. For the first of a series, we felt like the book had a complete story arc, which we appreciated. BUT, the book suffered from poor writing style that had us raising our eyebrows in annoyance. Having read quite a bit of this genre, we felt that this interesting story was not served well by the poor writing. And now for some of our discussion points:

  • One of the more interesting things about this book were the characters. Oddly enough, the main character was one of the least interesting. The two princes were both very interesting and kept us guessing at their motives and true natures up until the very end. (Even though there was a certain predictability to the main twist at the end).
  • We especially liked Cal because he was hard to read – even for the reader outside the story looking in. We appreciated his complicated character. In fact, he was the one person that we were interested in finding out more about at the end of the book.
  • There were a few plot holes that had us scratching our heads: having Cal choose to save Mare’s life was something we could buy, but having her just try to convince him of the validity of the rebellion was never going to work. But Maven convinced all of the rebels to act based on Cal choosing to save Mare’s life. So, huh?
  • The sentence, “anyone can betray anyone” was repeated way too much. Ok, we get it. This is where the “telling” style of writing fell way short of “showing.” It’s like the author didn’t trust us to get it with just the actions and words of the characters (which is showing). No, he had to have Mare say it to herself so that we would have it literally spelled out for us. Sigh. There are many other examples of this.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We were at the lake house! We waited until the last day (Sunday) to discuss the book because we were waiting on a couple of us to finish it.

What We Ate: All of our usual lake house food (brisket tacos, Papa Murphy’s pizza, chocolate cookies, s’mores, veggies and dip, muffins, eggs, smoothies.)

 photo FullSizeRender_zpsg2p2citd.jpg

 photo IMG_9172_zpsrtkl9hz4.jpg

 photo IMG_9196_zpsjqrjdgra.jpg

 photo IMG_9195_zpsu33cbhvy.jpg

 photo IMG_9193_zps2whqouaa.jpg

 photo IMG_9192_zpstkrwj56k.jpg

 photo IMG_9190_zps0v1xqijv.jpg

 photo IMG_9205_zpshekebn6f.jpg

 photo IMG_9199_zps6jxm8vmd.jpg

 photo IMG_9179_zps1wqpnm86.jpg

 photo IMG_9206_zpszo1nqifh.jpg

 photo IMG_9207_zpswfeedwlo.jpg

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ordinary Grace

Author: William Kent Krueger

One-sentence summary: One summer in a young boy’s life is filled with tragedy, loss of innocence, and more revelations about life than he bargained for.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: This was a beautiful and lyrical story with a lot of power.

Our least favorite thing about it: The female characters were stereotypical and not very well explored.

Main Topics of Discussion: Grief, Effects of War, Ministers, Brothers, nostalgia

Our favorite quote: “The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.”

Notes: We really loved this brutal but truthful and strangely beautiful story about a young boy’s summer that forever changed his life and family. Many of the characters were so interesting and well-developed. We found so much truth in the story and beauty in the writing that we very much enjoyed the book. Here are some snippets of what we discussed:
  • Despite the fact that the narrator is a young boy, we all related to him and loved him. This is an important thing for us and a determining factor in whether or not we enjoy a book. Kudos to the author on the voice of this story.
  • There were several themes that popped up, making this book very realistic, heavy, and truthful. Coming of Age, Loss of Innocence, Rich vs. Poor, Native American treatment, etc.
  • As mentioned above, we felt that the female characters were lacking. They didn’t seem as interesting or well-developed as their male counterparts and sometimes we felt like they acted very immature or stereotypical. This is basically our only criticism of the book.
  • We felt that grief was presented very realistically in the book. Each character dealt with it differently, but in ways we all could understand as realistic.
  • There was subtle commentary on the roles and expectations of a rural (or any) minister. We discussed that briefly.
  • The after-effects of war and how different soldiers dealt with it differently was, again, very realistic and interesting. The bond between soldiers who fought together was another beautiful element to the story.
  • This is the second book we’ve read recently that dealt with miracles. We really loved these parts.
  • We also really loved Jake, the brother. What a great character and a great vessel for wisdom and truth to be conveyed to the narrator.
Memorable Meeting Moments: We all toasted Stephanie’s new job before we ate.

What We Ate: Salads! Amberly made a very tasty medley of salads for us along with chips and dips.

 photo IMG_9432 blog_zpskuls3jms.jpg

 photo Blog Collage_zpsemibry43.jpg

Monday, April 25, 2016

Peace Like A River

Author: Leif Enger

One-sentence summary: A family takes off after a brother/son on the run from the law and learns much about themselves and others on their journey.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The writing was beautiful and such a pleasure to read or listen to.

Our least favorite thing about it: Some parts of the ending. (The one death we wish hadn’t happened.)

Main Topics of Discussion: Imagery, writing style, brothers/siblings, ethics, 1960’s, asthma, prophets, miracles/disbelief

Our favorite quote: “Is there a single person on whom I can press belief? No sir. All I can do is say, Here’s how it went. Here’s what I saw. I’ve been there and am going back. Make of it what you will.”

Notes: We really enjoyed reading this book with it’s lyrical prose and engaging story. When we peeked beyond the surface story to the images and the ethics and the revelations about people, we loved it even more. Here are some of the things we discussed:

- Again, we loved the writing style. We thought it was very heavy on imagery, but somehow remained approachable and light. We did not feel bogged down in any of it, but rather enamored with how the words elicited very specific thoughts, feelings, and images in our minds…just as great writing does. I describe it as lyrical because it was very near poetic at almost every turn.

- We all thought the 1960’s time period was not overtly stated (except maybe once), but felt through the details and prevailing attitudes of the characters. We loved that. We haven’t often read a book set in this time period and it was interesting.

- We discussed miracles for a long time because it is a major part of the book. We liked suspending disbelief when we read and following along with all the miracles that happened and the special powers their father possessed. Magical realism is fun to read if you buy in wholeheartedly, which we did.

- The way asthma was described, we felt that we had all experienced it by the end of the book. This speaks to the brilliant writing again, but we were amazed at how we felt asthmatic when we were reading those parts.

- Ethics played a part time and time again as characters were learning the motives of others and deciding what the right thing to do would be in each (far from black and white) situation.
- We loved reading the book from the kids’ perspective. It was a fun and interesting way to view the world and the story. We learned about individuals and humans as a whole as the kids did. Great narrator for the story.

- There were so many other things we loved: how Roxanne became beautiful when they came to know her so well, how their dad sacrificed his life for his son, how breathing was a strong image in the book from beginning to end, and how complex people are.

Memorable Meeting Moments: It was Stephanie’s birthday month, so she received birthday cards and books. We talked (some more) about the election this year. Boy do we have some thoughts!

What We Ate: Cheese dips with crackers, White Bean and Ham Tortellini Soup, cheese and garlic bread, Arugula salad with cranberries and feta, and homemade cheesecake with various toppings.

 photo IMG_9036 web_zpscq4sfxgi.jpg

 photo IMG_9035 web_zpsxi18hqyq.jpg

Monday, March 21, 2016

Trail of Broken Wings

Author: Sejal Hadani

One-sentence summary: Three sisters and their mother deal with the sudden coma of their abusive father/husband in different ways as they learn the tragedies of hiding the truth from their closest friends and family.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: The women’s stories were mesmerizing and seemed real.

Our least favorite thing about it: Everyone’s unwillingness to tell the truth to ANYONE was very frustrating, although likely very realistic.

Main Topics of Discussion: Abuse, Childhood, Parents/Children, Honesty, Relationships, Marriage, Parenting, Indian culture, Counseling/Therapy

Our favorite quote:Even though not every story ends with a happy ending or begins with tragedy, along the way there are moments of both. And those moments don’t define you or even break you— they are simply parts of the whole.”

Notes: We really liked this book because all four women had such interesting, although sad, stories to tell. Their lives, their pasts, and their present situation were all really engaging. Here are some of the things we discussed:

- We were all frustrated by how many secrets were withheld by every single one of the women. It became tiresome. But we did recognize that culture and the abuse they suffered probably make this very common
- By keeping their secrets, the unknowingly allowed the cycle of abuse to continue through the daughter/granddaughter
- It was interesting how each of the daughters’ abuse manifested itself differently in their lives. ALL of their relationships were messed up or touched by it, though.
- In a way, we felt like reading this book was a bit like watching a train wreck…we couldn’t look away from the tragedy. And some of it was wanting so badly to see how it turned out for them all.
- We almost felt a physical relief when the women started telling the truth and experiencing even small amounts of healing and freedom from that in the end.
- This was one time that we unashamedly were hoping for a happy/hopeful ending…and were so glad when we got it. The book would have been way too depressing without it.
- The father ran the gamut of abuse – but the emotional abuse seemed to leave the most scars.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Lindsay had lots of funny political memes hanging up around the dinner table for us to enjoy. She also set us a very patriotic table in commemoration of the crazy political season.

What We Ate: Lindsay made us spring rolls with dipping sauce, and baked turmeric chicken with rice. We also had cherry pie from Dara for dessert.

 photo web collage_zps59gwexf1.jpg

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah

One-sentence summary: Two sisters find ways to resist the German invasion of France in their own ways as WWII destroys their lives and their country.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: The story was the piece of this book that held all the great things about it together.

Our least favorite thing about it: The tragedies of war that everyone (on both sides) had to endure

Main Topics of Discussion: War, Resistance, Collaborators, Ethics of choices, Sisters, Redemption

Our favorite quote: “But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”

Notes: This was a beautifully crafted story about the ravages of war and the hope that endures for the future regardless. We had a great discussion on this book and we all universally loved it. Here are just a few of the things we discussed:

  • There are no good choices in war. And those choices are never black and white.
  • We loved hearing about the German feelings and perspective on the war through Beck. His character proved even more how things are never black and white. We loved that he was multi-faceted and what he made Vianne face in herself.
  • We briefly discussed collaborators and what motivations they had for helping the enemy. What consequences they faced…similar to Vianne and her choice about helping Beck with “the list.”
  • We felt that the sister relationship was written well enough that even those of us without sisters could understand their complicated relationship and feel empathy for each of them.
  • There was so much darkness, death, and tragedy to this book, yet there were slices of redemption too. We did love how it ended and how the present time was woven into the story…holding some of its mystery and revealing it when we were ready, as readers, to know.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Dara put out all her (and her girls’) French/Paris d├ęcor for us to enjoy to go along with the French theme. And it was Amberly’s birthday month, so she opened books and cards from all of us. Dara made the brownies in a heart shape with festive Valentine’s colored sprinkles to celebrate that holiday AND Amberly’s birthday.

What We Ate: Salad with Pear and Carrot, Toasted French Bread, Beef Bourguignon with noodles and carrots, brownie sundaes

 photo IMG_8640_zps3ncavdif.jpg

 photo IMG_8637_zpsseb2gzbp.jpg

 photo IMG_8636_zpseklisxdn.jpg

 photo IMG_8639_zpsq2fpdt6c.jpg

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Girl With All The Gifts

Author: M.R. Carey

One-sentence summary: In a world overrun with a virus that turns humans into zombie-like cannibals, a few children show some resistance to the virus, including a young girl who must decide who she really is and where she belongs.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: The ethics questions posed throughout the book were relevant and interesting to think about.

Our least favorite thing about it: That it was gruesome in parts and zombie books are not our thing (apparently).

Main Topics of Discussion: Survival Instinct, Ethics, Relationships, What Endures, Humanity, Characters

Our favorite quote: “And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.”

Notes: The first thing we ALL shared about this book was that parts of it were gross and gruesome to us. This was unanimous…whether we had read or listened to the book. We’ve read a lot of troubling and graphic things over the years, but for some reason, this aspect of this book bothered us. Maybe because the book didn’t have many redeeming qualities to make up for it.

This time, I’m just going to write the notes I took during our discussion. They pretty much speak for themselves:

  • The ending was weak and unsatisfactory. There was no cure and it ended ambiguously (some of us weren’t sure what the author was trying to imply at the end.
  • The one sexual encounter of the novel was way out of left field and completely unnecessary. That’s not to say it couldn’t have been done well and fit into the book, because we sort of got the reason for it…but it came across as badly handled to us.
  • The ending didn’t totally jive with the characters…Melanie, in particular. She basically condemned Justine to death after making it her life’s mission to keep the woman alive for the entire book up until that point. What???
  • The ethics of what was acceptable to do to the children who were infected, but who didn’t show the regular symptoms – all in the name of a cure – was probably the most (and maybe only) interesting thing about this book.
  • We didn’t really like any of the characters, and that makes it hard to care about them or about the book
  • The whole time they talked about Beacon, but we never got there in the book.
  • The junkers…what??? They seemed an unnecessary and not fully-developed element
  • There were several plot holes – and we discovered more as we continued discussing
Memorable Meeting Moments: Dara showed us her “rap” face, and Lindsay demonstrated how to pronounce “vehemently” again

What We Ate: Pot stickers, Asian pork, fried rice, Snow Peas and Radicchio, Crockpot Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream and Berries

 photo IMG_8488_zpsirhqhhkb.jpg

 photo IMG_8484_zpsabkuaf4y.jpg

 photo IMG_8486_zps18l7u85b.jpg

 photo IMG_8485_zpsmwhbkkkh.jpg