Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Baker's Daughter

Author: Sarah McCoy

One-sentence summary: The stories of two women in very different times and places intersect as they struggle with their histories, present troubles, and make crucial decisions about their futures.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: We loved the time period and new insights into Nazi Germany.

Our least favorite thing about it: Some of it may have been slightly rushed and the pacing a bit off in places (but we were willing to overlook that because we loved the book).

Main Topics of Discussion: Government, Sacrifice, Family, Consequences, Nazi Germany, US border control

Our favorite quote:We knew things were not right, but we were afraid to change what we knew and even more afraid to find out what we did not.”

Notes: We usually love books set in the WWII time period and this was no exception. We also loved the blending of the story from that time with present day El Paso, TX with all its border issues. In fact, that may have been our favorite thing about the book other than the fact that it was just a great story…the struggle between country and conscience, morality and obedience, and all the grey areas in between was so well done. We loved the way this book made us think.

We gained yet another perspective on German nationals during the Nazi regime as well as the Lebensborn Program, which was very interesting to us. And the descriptions of the bakery and its goods was absolutely mouth-watering.

Overall, we really loved how the story wove throughout both time periods and connected the characters as well as brought up questions (often unanswerable) about right and wrong and what people choose to do when they are faced with moral dilemmas. We definitely recommend this book. (But have some baked goods nearby when you read it because it made us hungry!)

Memorable Meeting Moments: Christina made us homemade German pretzels and an amazing cheesecake that is a family recipe from her grandmother…from Germany! And we made plans for our next and favorite meeting of the year…the lake house!

What We Ate: German Cucumber Salad, Beef Rouladen, Spiced Red Cabbage, and German Cheesecake (Kasekuchen)

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

One-sentence summary: An emotionally unstable woman inserts herself into the lives of people she sees from the train into London each day.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The story moved along nicely and kept us interested.

Our least favorite thing about it: We found the whole premise a little creepy and not that original.

Main Topics of Discussion: Divorce, Job-hunting, alcoholism/addiction, therapy, relationships, roommates

Our favorite quote: I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

Notes: Our initial reaction to this story was that the main character, Rachel, was really creepy. She was abnormally fascinated with people she had watched, made up names for, and had never met. She had an abnormal attachment to them and to top it off, they lived down the street from where she used to live with her ex-husband, who now lives there with his new wife and baby daughter. Creepy, right? And poor Rachel was burdened by an alcoholic addiction that she never seemed able to get control of or to ask for help with. We simultaneously really felt for her and understood her feelings and yet could not completely comprehend all of her thoughts and actions.

Some of us felt that the ending was rushed a bit and that an encounter with one of the characters (Scott) was a little weird and out of character for him. It seemed to create a violent event that was out of left field and didn’t even relate to the eventual outcome of the story. It wasn’t even a big plot twist.

We actually compared this novel a little bit to Gone Girl, which may be unfair. We didn’t like the ending (or non-ending, as the case may be) of Gone Girl at all. We thought the books were similar because of the thriller-type story that has a psychological vein running through it as well as a disturbed main character. But Gone Girl kept us on our toes and maneuvered through some very shocking plot twists a lot better than this novel. Again, it may be unfair to compare, but those were just our thoughts. In other words, we felt that this basic story had been told before and in a much better way.

One thing that was interesting and made the outcome harder to figure out was the unreliability of our main character and narrator, Rachel. She never could figure out the true motives and personality of anyone. Scott, her ex-husband, the new wife, the therapist…we saw them all through her eyes and therefore, we didn’t have a clue what or who any of them were either. At its best, it is a clever narrative technique and at its worst, it was incredibly annoying to not ever get any reliable information!

Overall, we enjoyed this story and ended up giving it a fairly high rating because of how easy and fun it was to read.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was Stephanie’s meeting and we had another non-traditional gathering. We met at Chiloso for dinner and dessert and then went to the movie together to see Pitch Perfect 2.

What We Ate: Yummy Tex-Mex at Chiloso and Stephanie’s sopapilla cheesecake!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Boys in the Boat

Author: Daniel James Brown

One-sentence summary: A western American men’s rowing team battles great odds during the American Great Depression to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin with Hitler at the helm of Germany about to begin WWII.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The insights into individual lives during the Great Depression as well as the details about the great deception of the Nazis during the 1936 Olympics were both fascinating.

Our least favorite thing about it: Too many details about rowing.

Main Topics of Discussion: Teams, work ethic, hope, sport of rowing, Germany, friendships, family relationships and responsibilities

Our favorite quote:Like so much in life, crew was partly about confidence, partly about knowing your own heart.”

Notes: Overall we really liked this book and the remarkable story it told of the rowing team. We enjoyed learning about rowing as well as more intimate details as to the day to day lives of people during the Great Depression. We were also intrigued to learn about all of the propaganda and deception surrounding the Berlin Olympics and how that affected the world’s perception of Germany and Nazis. Really fascinating. The incredible work ethic and team spirit of the boys (men) on the rowing team and the extreme dedication by everyone involved even down to the intricate building of the boat was an inspiring and uplifting story. Joe’s story, in particular, was hopeful and about overcoming immense hardship and emotional trials.

Our critiques are minor. We felt that there was TOO much information about rowing and after a while it got repetitive. How the strokes were performed (correctly or incorrectly) and the logistics of each practice and race made the book drag a little in the midst of an otherwise very interesting story. It’s not that we didn’t want to learn anything about rowing…but we felt that some of the repetitions of the information could have been edited out. Because of this, we felt that it also made the book a tad too long. Long books are fine as long as everything in them is crucial…which we did not feel was the case with this book. Still, it was definitely worth our time and very enlightening.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was Amberly’s meeting and she took us to a wonderful little Thai restaurant where we sampled so many delicious dishes. We stayed for over three hours at our table and even had our dessert there. Such a fun evening!

What We Ate: Lots of yummy Thai appetizers and dishes plus Amberly’s chocolate cake and lemon bars.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

One-sentence summary: A young British woman is captured as a spy in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, and her confession under interrogation begins the story of her best friend, a pilot, and what happened in their daring flight to France.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The mystery of what (really) happened to the girls after landing in France is interesting to read as it unfolds from both narrators.

Our least favorite thing about it: That the book is supposed to be about this awesome female friendship and the friendship is not properly developed so that you really care about it (at all).

Main Topics of Discussion: World War II, women (friendships, in the army, etc),

Our favorite quote: “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”

Notes: Overall, we enjoyed reading this story and liked the characters. One of our favorite things about the book was the character of Julie. She was smart, funny, and strong. The more you found out about her, the more you liked her. Although parts of her journal were long and bogged down by tedious details about planes and flying, her voice was fun to read. Maddie’s part of the story was fun to read because she revealed what was really going on and tied up some loose ends for us. However, we never got a sense of a significant, fierce friendship between the two. We all agreed on this, and a book written about friendship – where the climax of the story relies on that friendship – should make that friendship believable. We felt this was the chief disappointment about the book. Had it been more powerful, some of the other things that bugged us might have been more insignificant.

But, we also loved learning about women as pilots and spies in England in WWII. The details about occupied France were also interesting and enlightening. We all love this era and have read several books about it. It seems that each book reveals more and more details from different perspectives.

We also felt that the pacing was a little off. The first part of the book goes rather slowly and the second half races to the end and glosses over some pretty big events. That’s how it felt to us, anyway. However, this really was a good read and we enjoyed it a lot.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We had a tea party in our pajamas

What We Ate: First Course: Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Tomato Pesto Sandwiches, Strawberry Arugula Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing, Turkey and Brie Sandwiches with Vanilla Rooibos Tea. Second Course: Homemade Scones with Fresh Whipped Cream and Strawberry Preserves with Blueberry Green Tea. Third Course: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, Lemon Tart, and Vanilla Almond Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies with Hot Cinnamon Spice Green Tea.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

God Loves Haiti

Author: Dimitri Elias Leger

One-sentence summary: As the 2010 earthquake destroys Haiti, three characters try to pick up the pieces and find each other, literally and figuratively.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: That it was a fast and easy read.

Our least favorite thing about it: The writing was poor.

Main Topics of Discussion: Haiti, natural disasters, God, international aid, infidelity, culture, poverty, suffering

Our favorite quote: “You never love something more than the moment you believe it to be lost.”

Notes: Our book ratings really varied on this novel. Some of us rated it in the 7-9 range, and the rest of us gave it a 5. So, our average came out to a 6.

There were some moments of profound in this novel about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The comments on God and disaster and how a religious culture deals with such pain was interesting. Likewise, the commentary on how outside countries (especially the US) helps in situations like this and the thoughts of the Haitian people about their aid was eye-opening and though-provoking. We learned a lot about the earthquake, the politics of Haiti, and the reality of what life was like after the earthquake. In fact, the descriptions of the aftermath and damage are heartbreakingly realistic and devastating. The weaving of the story into this historic event was interesting too. Those were the positive points we took away from this novel.

What we liked less was the writing, the characters, and the story. The writing was just mediocre. We felt that the story, in the hands of a better writer, could have been much more compelling. As it was, the story was just not that interesting beyond what we learned about the earthquake and some cultural elements. We just didn’t find ourselves caring all that much about the characters or what happened to them. In that same vein, the characters were a tad underdeveloped. We didn’t care about them because we didn’t know them. The ending felt rushed and a little random. Overall, we this was an average read.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We had dinner together at Christina’s before heading back to Lindsay’s house for dessert, tea, and our discussion. We also celebrated Amberly’s birthday.

What We Ate: Various things at Christina’s and LOTS of varieties of cookies at Lindsay’s house.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

One-sentence summary: The seemingly separate stories of a blind French girl and a mechanically gifted young German boy end up intersecting in the chaos and terror of the bombing of Saint Malo during the German occupation of WWII.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The writing was elegant, yet simple. Beautifully done.

Our least favorite thing about it: The abrupt and tragic ending.

Main Topics of Discussion: War, Death, Following vs. Leading, Propaganda, Power of Words, History

Our favorite quote:But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?”

Notes: This book had our ratings all over the place. As for the things we loved…the setting and the historical content was, as always, wonderful and interesting. The writing itself was beautiful, insightful, and so well done. It was an easy, but elegant prose. We also loved Werner’s perspective into Hitler’s youth as well as the impact of radios on the German/Nazi propaganda and the controlling of radios and programs. That was all very interesting and led us to our discussion of the power of words. How the two main characters stories eventually found each other was lovely and carefully done as well.

A few of the things that some of us did not care for…the ending was the main complaint. Nothing seemed to work out or give hope – although some of us thought it did. The tragic part(s) of the ending were not well-received by our group. Some thought there were too many characters and that it was difficult to keep up with them all, especially with the two settings and sets of characters (in France and in Germany). Finally, that there were two settings and stories was also a little disorienting to some of us.

Overall this was a beautiful, haunting story of loyalty, survival, and deciding how you want to live your life in the midst of war.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We celebrated Rachel’s birthday

What We Ate: Beef with wine sauce, carrots, and green beans along with bread and Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake for dessert.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Author: Jenny Lawson

One-sentence summary: Blogger Jenny Lawson writes about her unique childhood, current life and challenges with wit and humor.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 5

Our favorite thing about it: It was funny in parts.

Our least favorite thing about it: The rest was not funny or interesting and the writing style (if you can call it that) got annoying.

Main Topics of Discussion: Writing Style, Humor, Blogs becoming books, dealing with difficulties, honesty

Our favorite quote: “Having one dead animal in the house is eclectic and artistic. More than one reeks of serial killer. There really is a fine line there."

Notes: We found this book pretty funny in parts, especially toward the beginning. At first the writing style helped the humor along and the self-deprecation of the author was good for a few laughs. And then in wasn’t. Basically, the writing style was very much stream of consciousness or how someone would talk who can’t stay on track with a story. There were so many diversions, PPPPPS’s and random foot notes that it became disorienting. While we were decidedly not offended by any of the language or numerous mentions of vagina, we felt like they were trying too hard for humor instead of being meaningful words that added to the story. One thing we did appreciate was the author’s way of dealing with difficult situations with humor. While that may not work for everyone, we could appreciate how that helped her deal with life. In a nutshell, we felt like this author is much better in blog format. Compiling all these stories into a book was just too much of that style at one time. If read individually, and over time, we felt like we might have appreciated the content a little more. Maybe.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our Christmas meeting and it was at Christina’s house! Her Christmas decorations set the mood for our gift giving and our festive meal. We also did a book exchange, as always, and Christina did our Jeopardy year-in-review game for us this year.

What We Ate: Rosemary Baked Brie with Honey and Candied nuts, Pot Roast, Red Potatoes, Cauliflower, Green Salad, Dill Carrots, Brussels sprouts, and a Pumpkin Roll for dessert

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