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.


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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.


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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

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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

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Eve

Author: W.M. Paul

One-sentence summary: A young woman has intense visions of the creation story while recovering from serious injury, casting new light on Adam’s and Eve’s roles in the fall.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The view and portrayal of women in the creation story was very interesting.

Our least favorite thing about it: It was a little confusing to start and therefore hard to get into.

Main Topics of Discussion: Imagery, Creativity, Worthiness, Women

Our favorite quote: “I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.”

Notes: This novel was quite interesting…once you got past the very confusing beginning. Most of us admitted to having some trouble getting into the story because the first part was just weird and didn’t “grab” us. However, somewhere along the way, we did become interested in what would happen to the characters and in the story. We felt like this story was not only an ambitious one to take on, but it was done in a very creative way so as to provoke thought and discussion. We felt that we got most of the points the author was trying to make, but he certainly didn’t drive them home. We were left scratching our heads on more than one plot point…maybe that was intended.

The imagery surrounding the women characters of childbearing, mother and child relationships, and the power/powerlessness of women was interesting to us and challenged our perceptions of a story we’ve heard so often. The themes of truth and honesty and worthiness as well as control and certainty were big parts of our discussion. In the end, we all enjoyed the story as well as the things it made us think about in a new way.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our Christmas meeting, so we exchanged gifts and books with each other. We also played our yearly Jeopardy game.

What We Ate: Gnocchi mac n’ cheese (!), Salad, Rolls, and Beef Tenderloin


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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Grace of God

Author: Jep and Jessica Robertson

One-sentence summary: Jep and Jessica tell the story of their young adult lives, including mistakes they made and how they met and got married.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: For viewers of the show (Duck Dynasty), the book has some interesting details.

Our least favorite thing about it: For most of us, it was kind of boring.

Main Topics of Discussion: Relationships, Marriage, Conversion, Life Revelations, Duck Dynasty

Our favorite quote: Deep down, I know I’m not in control, so it does no good to worry.”

Notes: Overall, this was not a bad book. Most of us just did not enjoy it that much. We felt that it wasn’t that interesting. We felt there was imbalance in the details too…some things would have too many details and then other things seemed glossed over and left you wondering. If you watch Duck Dynasty then it’s possible that the book will be more interesting to you. Most of us do not watch. Even those of us that do or have, still thought the book a bit boring.

While there were moments of change and conversion in the book, one of the reasons it wasn’t that interesting was because it lacked a revelation or over-arching theme. We did appreciate the honesty and openness of sharing past mistakes and current struggles. That is always helpful for those sharing and those reading. We felt like some of the struggles were mentioned and then dropped, making you wonder what happened…like Jessica’s eating disorder, for example.

For all that, the book was relatively brief and we didn’t hate it. That’s a pretty good summary of our feelings!

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our Thanksgiving potluck meeting. We all brought dishes to share. Christina: cauliflower casserole (or cauliflower au gratin), Rachel: creamed corn, Stephanie: green bean casserole, Lindsay: dressing, gravy, and corn bread, Amberly: turkey, cranberry salsa, and banana pudding, Dara: pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.

What We Ate: See above! We all agreed that this might have been our best Thanksgiving meeting yet…all the dishes were really good!

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

One-sentence summary: In a bleak future America, a teenage gamer finds identity and more in a simulated reality game in his search for an elusive easter egg left by the game’s late programmer.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The plethora of 80’s references!

Our least favorite thing about it: It can lack interest for those not familiar with the gaming world and may be hard to get into at first.


Main Topics of Discussion: Reality, Gaming, Relationships, Escapism, the 80’s


Our favorite quote: “We exist as nothing but raw personality in here.”

Notes: Most of us really enjoyed this easy novel about a massive “treasure hunt” in a world-wide simulated reality game set in the future. The future reality that the author paints does not seem far-fetched to us, nor do some of the simulated school scenarios, etc. Those were interesting ideas to read and think about.

Although the book is about gaming and the majority of the story takes place in the simulated reality, for most of us, this was interesting and fun. A couple of us were not as enchanted with this aspect of the novel, which made a big difference in their reading experience. Even for those of us who do not play video games ourselves, either our husbands or kids to or both, making this world both familiar and at least a little interesting to us. The concept of this book and this aspect of it made it different than anything we’ve ever read.

The second layer of meaning behind the fairly straight forward plot was fascinating…the issue of reality and escaping reality. We discussed how the game created a new “reality” and allowed everyone to create an anonymous persona of their own choosing. Again, not far-fetched at all, but with obvious and interesting relational repercussions, which were discussed in the book. Can you really get to know someone online that you’ve never seen? How much do looks convey about a personality? How much do they get in the way? These were surprisingly interesting topics to discuss.

The riddle and hunt itself were also entertaining, and the 80’s references that made up the clues and challenges were really fun to read about and experience with the main character. Overall, this was a fun and different read.

Memorable Meeting Moments: It took Lindsay less than 1 minute to make a parallel between kids and dogs…again. We drank some nice bottles of wine together and celebrated Lindsay’s birthday with books and cards.

What We Ate: Italian cheese tray with 4 cheeses, olives, grapes, almonds, and fig jam. Then for dinner we had a salad and baked gnocchi with fresh mozzarella. For dessert we had salted caramel butter bars with ice cream.

(I only took one photo the whole night...and it's of the cheese tray.)

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