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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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Orphan Train

Author: Christina Baker Kline

One-sentence summary: Two orphan girls, generations apart, become friends as we learn their stories, heartbreaks, and triumphs.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The historical aspects, especially learning about the actual orphan train.

Our least favorite thing about it: That the end was so abrupt and kind of fell flat.

Main Topics of Discussion: History, Orphans, Foster System, Child Labor, Rape, Family

Our favorite quote: “I learned long ago that loss is not only probable but inevitable.”

Notes: We were really interested in the history of the orphan train and were surprised to find out that it was a real thing. It was also interesting – as well as heartbreaking – to learn the way orphans were viewed…as evil and burdens on society. They were basically dealt with in any way possible. And that meant that many of them ended up being child laborers for families who took in an orphan just to use them for labor. It also meant that they may have lived in harsh or abusive homes and environments with little to no accountability on the families with which they were placed. Vivian’s story, especially of her early years, taught us all about this from her perspective. It was a very rich, emotionally charged story.

Flipping back to present day with Molly, we learned a little bit about what it might be like to be a foster child. Some of her feelings were eye-opening to us and such an interesting perspective. That she always had to ask for everything, never felt like she could be her true self, and lived in fear of rejection, was terrible and revealing. Living in survival mode for both girls was exhausting for them.

As the story began to wind up to the climax and then to the ending, Vivian’s tragedy continued into her young adult life even though she had found a loving set of adoptive parents. She made a difficult decision out of fear of loss again that haunted her for the rest of her life. For both Molly and Vivian, their friendship was rewarding and the ending allowed some resolution for both of them. However, when it came to the ending, we felt it was just a little bit rushed compared to the pace of the rest of the story. And maybe because of that, it just fell a little flat to us. It was not as emotionally charged as the rest of the story so we felt that it didn’t do the rest of the story justice to end like that. Not that the ending itself was bad, just that the writing didn’t flesh out things like we had been used to. Overall, a great read and a book we’d definitely recommend.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We had our potluck Thanksgiving meal. We took selfies outside in the SNOW! Stephanie hosted and crotched placemats for her table…beautiful!

What We Ate: Turkey and Ham, Dressing, Rolls, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potatoes, Cauliflower Casserole, Creamed Corn, and Pumpkin Cake with cream cheese frosting

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Defending Jacob

Author: William Landay

One-sentence summary: A DA with a hidden past is thrown into turmoil when his son is charged with murder.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: We wanted to find out what happened in the story. Until we did.

Our least favorite thing about it: The story was just so-so and we liked NONE of the characters.

Main Topics of Discussion: Parental Love and Loyalty, Honesty, Story Development, Murder

Our favorite quote: I admit--no one worth knowing can be quite known, no one worth possessing can be quite possessed.

Notes: None of us quite loved this book. Some of us really didn’t like it. First of our two main complaints: 1) There was no climax to the story. It seemed as if it was building to something – and something did happen in the end – but it just was kind of meh. Not compelling, not very realistic (in our opinion), and nothing was revealed, which was what you really wanted from the ending. 2) The characters were all flat, typical characterizations and none of them were likable at all. We need someone to relate to or to like in a story to really care about it. And the male/female generalizations came across as condescending (on both counts) to us.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Chiloso and celebrated Lindsay’s birthday. Amberly brought a yummy cheesecake with berry topping to the restaurant for us. Then, we went to see Gone Girl together since we’d read that book as an earlier pick.

What We Ate: Chiloso...and cheesecake!

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Me Before You

Author: Jojo Moyes

One-sentence summary: A young woman takes a much needed job taking care of a quadriplegic man who changes her views on life, love, and compassion.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8 (unanimous rating)

Our favorite thing about it: Compelling, well-written story.

Our least favorite thing about it: Maybe (we’re reaching) that it’s a challenging subject-matter (but we kind of liked that too).

Main Topics of Discussion: Selflessness, Relationships, Compassion, Disability, Grief

Our favorite quote: “Some mistakes... Just have greater consequences than others. But you don't have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you.”

Notes: We really loved this book. The story was interesting and kept us wanting to read more. The characters were relatable and well-developed. The subject matter, while difficult, doesn't shy away from realistic emotions, etc. The dialogue was well-written and interesting and we felt the ending was authentic.

The author really did a great job of getting us inside the mind of a quadriplegic, which was insightful and emotional. We also really related well to the mother character. Although she was not likable, her emotions and actions were mostly realistic to us.

Despite the heavy subject matter, we found ourselves laughing out loud in places as we read. The fact that the author could balance humor like that with life and death questions made the book that much better. Overall, we thought this was a quick, easy, engaging, and really well-done novel.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Poor Stephanie drove to the wrong house at first. We celebrated Dara’s birthday month. And Amberly managed to pick our next book on the fly!

What We Ate: Cornbread, Chili Tortellini Soup, Green Salad, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

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