Tuesday, August 27, 2019

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

Author: Amy Silverstein

One-sentence summary: A woman’s closest friends rally around her as she waits for a second heart transplant, providing both practical and emotional support for her.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: It was so honest.

Our least favorite thing about it: It dragged a little bit in the middle.

Main Topics of Discussion: Illness, Doctors, Friendship, Honesty, Trust, Death, Kids

Our favorite quote: “We had become our middle-aged selves – our wisest, steadiest, most powerful selves yet.”

Notes: We really enjoyed this book. Several of us gave it a 9 rating. We felt that it was really honest and raw and a very realistic portrayal of what really happened to Amy while waiting for a new heart. We loved how each of her friends was uniquely gifted to help her and how they amazingly made time to fly across the country to do so. Here are some of our other thoughts about the book, in no particular order:

1. We had conflicting views of the author in the story. Some of us were really invested in her life and were gripped by the story. Others of us didn’t connect to her, really.

2. Some of us felt that the middle of the book dragged on just a bit because it was a lot of the same details.

3. Although we enjoyed the parts about Amy’s friends, we also had a hard time keeping up with all their names. While it probably is not realistic for a book like this, we wish there was more time to develop each one so that we could distinguish them better.

4. At least one of us was overwhelmed by all the “medical stuff.” It was a bit too realistic and descriptive for some.

5. We really appreciated the author’s explanation of how lonely illness can be. No one can fully know what that journey is like even if they are with you every minute.

6. The one thing we really disagreed with the author about was how much she chose to tell her son – or how little, in this case. We realize this is a very personal decision that each set of parents have to make in situations like these, but we all agreed that we would have divulged more and let our adult son decide for himself what he wanted to do at the potential end of his mother’s life.

7. We discussed the authors moments of anger and rudeness toward the staff and her friends. We all agreed that a good dose of grace is due those who are suffering as much and as long as she did. However, we also agreed that being sick or in pain doesn’t give you license to say anything you want or to treat people badly. We also agreed that advocating for yourself as a patient – while sometimes it would take being very assertive – does not mean you have to be rude. (Ex: The one incident where she got mad at the transplant pharmacist – we thought she had every right to be angry…at her doctor. We felt like she took it out on the wrong person in this instance.)

8. We were divided on this – some of us thought that the book was more about what it’s like to wait for a heart transplant than it was about friendship.

9. We were 100% with the author on her desire to end treatment when she felt it was time.

Overall this was a very interesting book with lots of great points and things to think about. It made for a really great discussion!

Memorable Meeting Moments: Lindsay had to join us on Friday evening due to her seminary orientation. Stephanie had to leave at 6am on Sunday morning due to a work obligation at church. And it rained for half the day on Friday, which we loved! Dara won Phase 10 despite “being terrible at this game.”

What We Ate: All our regular lake house meals! Tacos, pizza, cookies!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The River

Author: Peter Heller

One-sentence summary: Two boys travel down a remote river on a planned canoe trip that goes awry with the addition of a forest fire and several dangerous people.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: The story of friendship between Jack and Wynn was beautiful.

Our least favorite thing about it: It was not as suspenseful as we expected.

Main Topics of Discussion: Friendship, Trust, Crisis, Tragedy

Our favorite quote: “Still, the workings of nature made the voracious, self-satiating intelligence of humans seem of the lowest order, not the highest.”

Notes: Right off the bat, several of us said the book was not quite what we expected based on what we had heard about it. It wasn’t as suspenseful as we thought. If we had begun reading with no expectations, we might have thought differently about it. We unanimously agreed that the male friendship that the book focused on was really well written – possibly the best we’ve ever read. We enjoyed the character development of both Wynn and Jack. Sometimes the book seemed slow because it got bogged down in details about fishing, or canoeing, or the fire. We were able to skim those without any loss to the overall story. However, there were so many sentences that just made us pause and appreciate how well they were written and how they conjured such specific images and thoughts. The writing was really beautiful. We did have several questions left at the end, which seemed a little rushed. For the most part, we enjoyed this heartbreaking book.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our first meeting with Amberly back from China! She had seen almost all of us already, but it was amazing to have her back at our meetings in person! We met at Whiskey Cake and then went to Legacy Hall for drinks and discussion. This was also Christina's birthday month (actually, we had to meet at the beginning of August because we could not find a day in July to meet - a first for us!)

What We Ate: Fried green tomatoes and baked goat cheese for appetizers. Various entrées. Whiskey cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Lost Book of the Grail

Author: Charlie Lovett

One-sentence summary: A college professor's life-long quest is given a new spark in an unlikely woman he meets in his beloved cathedral library whose books are in danger of being sold off - as well as the secrets they hold. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: Fun story with interesting details.

Our least favorite thing about it: Some of the chemistry between Arthur and Bethany felt forced.

Main Topics of Discussion: Faith and Sacraments, Liturgy, History, Ritual

Our favorite quote: “The gifts of God are rarely what we expect.”

Notes: We all really liked this book. The story was very fun to read and kept our attention. A few of us mentioned it being a little slow to start, but then it picked up. We enjoyed the themes of history, faith, and ritual woven throughout the story. We liked that the grail was a main proponent of the story but wasn’t the only driving force of the narrative. We all liked the search for the grail, but we all skimmed over the more detailed parts of the cypher and coding – we didn’t find it very important to understand all of that. The characters took center stage, in our opinions, and we liked them all. Some could have been better served with more development (especially Bethany), but it was fine. They typical trope of two unlikely people being attracted to each other did not bother us too much, but our one gripe was that the chemistry between Arthur and Bethany just felt false to us. We wish it had been better developed. Their banter was fun and funny, but something felt lacking. We liked that Arthur found comfort in ritual although he was unable to believe in God. His tether to history kept him there, though, and we discussed the role of history in the book. The moving back and forth in time was done well – sometimes it can be disorienting, but it worked out in this case.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Rachel’s house to possibly swim. We ended up just getting barely wet before a huge storm rolled in and dropped the temperature. We settled on the covered patio, though, and watched the spectacular lightning show – it was amazing! This was our last meeting without Amberly!

What We Ate: We had cheese, dips, chicken salad sandwiches, veggies, nuts, and fruit – and cookies for dessert.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

One-sentence summary: A man discovers what it’s like to see the results of different choices in life while he fights to return to his real life and family.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: Good, interesting story.

Our least favorite thing about it: The last quarter of the book fell apart story-wise for us.

Main Topics of Discussion: Dark Matter (the physics concept), Choices, Plot Holes

Our favorite quote: "I can’t help thinking that we’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.”

Notes: For the most part, we really liked this book. We thought that the mind-bending quantum physics and multiverse parts of the book were just interesting and thought-provoking enough, but kept simple enough so as not to bog down the average reader. We thought the strong-suit of the book was that it made you think and consider these interesting concepts and how they would affect a regular person’s life. We also though the emphasis on choices was interesting. Where things fell apart for us narratively was in the end when all the different “Jasons” came into play. We could begin to understand WHY they were there, but it definitely muddied the waters and we felt like the plot was already going well. No need to throw a curve ball that there wasn’t time to really deal with. Some parts of the plot after the Jasons started showing up seemed rushed to conclusion or over-simplified compared to the pacing of the rest of the novel. A small complaint, but we all noticed it and felt it – so significant enough. One other weakness in our opinion – what happened to Amanda? That was a pretty loose end that was never tied up. We thought this book would make a great movie, though.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Well, it’s pretty memorable that Christina accidentally read the wrong book. She read A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea! (We had been discussing it on our text thread.) We also spent our entire meeting outside and got to speak to Amberly for a while – about her coming home!

What We Ate: Crunchy Chicken, Roasted Purple and White Potatoes with Roasted Brussels Sprouts – and German Chocolate Chess Squares for dessert.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation

Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber

One-sentence summary: Nadia outlines the ways in which the church has previously related to sex and taught about it with the aim of showing that there are far better ways of doing both of those things.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: Bolz-Weber boldly questions everything we’ve been taught about sex and it needed to be done.

Our least favorite thing about it: There were a couple parts that dragged to us – but nothing really major.

Main Topics of Discussion: Sex, Homosexuality, Pornography, Abortion, Shame

Our favorite quote: “My argument in this book is this: we should not be more loyal to an idea, a doctrine, or an interpretation of a Bible verse than we are to people. If the teachings of the church are harming the bodies and spirits of people, we should rethink those teachings."

Notes: Based on what we had heard about this book, we expected to be shocked by what we read…and we just weren’t. This book was in large part a response to the purity culture espoused by religious groups. But Nadia also offers a way forward – a different way of viewing things and therefore, a different way of doing things. We were on board with her thinking so it didn’t shock us.

However, there were certain parts that made us stop and think (which was the point). But the book seemed to want to start the conversation and ask really good questions about what we’ve done and what we should change – for the flourishment of ALL God’s children. We really enjoyed her thoughts and the idea of reviewing long-held beliefs. Some of these we’ve already adopted, and like I said – some made us really stop and think. We felt stretched, which is a good thing.

In particular, her ideas about the wholeness of a person including their sexuality were fantastic. As well as her discussion of shame and its relation to sex – and how we have to address that. We also loved her thoughts on the parable of the talents from the Bible – that the key was how the servants viewed their master – that’s what made the difference in what they did with their talents. The humor that Bolz-Weber weaves throughout was great as well.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We met at Jordan Swim’s new restaurant, Pizza Americana in Richardson since this was a joint book pick for us. We then moved to McDonald's after the restaurant closed - we had tea, coffee, and fries while we discussed and talked some more. It was also Stephanie's birthday month!

What We Ate: A goat cheese and pesto appetizer, garlic knots with marinara, a chopped salad Americana, the Fig Manchego pizza, the Carne pizza, and the White pizza (with no mushrooms on half!). We also had the soft-serve gelato to top it off.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Author: Gail Honeyman

One-sentence summary: A socially awkward woman slowly discovers the truth about her past and discovers herself along the way with the help of strangers who become friends.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: The humor and writing style were so enjoyable to read.

Our least favorite thing about it: The twist at the end about her mother – it was fine, but it also felt a tiny bit manipulative.

Main Topics of Discussion: Memory, Repression, Trauma, Obsession/fixation, Friendship, Loneliness, Suicide

Our favorite quote: “I could see no point in being anything other than truthful with the world. I had, literally, nothing left to lose. But, by careful observation from the sidelines, I'd worked out that social success is often built on pretending just a little.”

Notes: We universally loved this book. The way the author balanced the darkness with lighthearted humor was just perfect. And through that balance she spoke so much truth.

Memorable Meeting Moments: There was a HUGE hail storm during our meeting, but not at Lindsay’s house – in other metroplex areas (Frisco). We were able to FaceTime Amberly again and talk about her coming home!

What We Ate: Pizza, veggies, crackers, dips, etc. And brownies for dessert.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bring: The Last Beholder

Author: Megan Beam and Erin Hicks

One-sentence summary: A step brother and sister find themselves dropped into another world on a quest for a mysterious sword with a band of friends and come to realize that the strange abilities that set them apart in their own world are actually powerful strengths.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The aspects of the world that the authors built were really original and we loved them.

Our least favorite thing about it: There were not enough details/description.

Main Topics of Discussion: World-Building, Giftedness/Powers, Pain/Emotional States, Truth

Our favorite quote: “She shuddered slightly, feeling more powerful than she was really interested in feeling. Ever. At all.”

Notes: Our overall impression: we enjoyed the story and so many parts of it, but we were left wanting MORE. In other words, there were some un-polished things about the book that left us unsatisfied. Not necessarily the narrative arc, but just details and character development and just plain QUESTIONS that seemed like they should have been answered. Other thoughts:

1. It took almost all of us a little while to get into the book. We know there’s a certain “disorientation” that happens when you open a fantasy book – until you get your bearings and figure out (often along with the main characters, as in this case) what the heck is going on and what kind of “world” is this and how does it work, for crying out loud. We were prepared for that, but when the characters themselves asked questions that not only didn’t get answered when they asked, but never got answered at all, we were left scratching our heads – and not in a good way. We felt some more explanation/back story, etc. was needed in a few areas. We don’t expect to know everything all in the first book, but this was a unanimous feeling.

2. Although it took us a while to attach to the characters, we DID. And we liked that.

3. We really liked the emotional depth that the authors drew in for Wallis and Gus, but we would have liked even more. Where their pain originated and how that related to their powers was really great – we hope future books delve into that even more.

4. Gus’s power of Mending in particular we thought was really brilliant. Seems like partly power, partly curse. And his working through that – although not complete (and it shouldn’t be) – was really interesting to read.

5. We’re still slightly confused on Wallis’s powers. Why could she get the sword and no one else – we hope this is explained in other books. And also, we’re still a little fuzzy on what she and Finn can do as Beholders. We know they can “pull” and open the seams to other worlds (cool concept, by the way – we all agreed), but what about discerning what others are feeling, etc. Just fuzzy about that.
6. We really loved the idea of the vapors and how speaking the truth banished them. Lovely idea, we liked it.

7. The formatting – we all read the Kindle version – was a MESS. The spacing was weird, there were so many typos, and how they separated out (or didn’t) the dialogue sometimes made it really hard to know who was talking. We all said we had to go back and read paragraphs/dialogue again to figure out who was saying what.

8. We loved so many things about the world that the authors built – like Gus’s unique power, and the idea of the “seams” being visible only to some. And the idea that everyone was gifted differently and that they formed a team and were all needed. We loved that prince/King and princess/Queen were not gendered terms. The idea of how the vapors attacked and how much power we give our fears and perceived shortcomings – was really well done. 

9. We felt like Lucienne’s death was sort of unnecessary (for the plot – at least as far as we can tell) and was definitely not explained AT ALL. We got the emotional side that Gus and Wallis felt, but what the heck actually happened to her? We hope it’s crucial to future books that this part is kept from us at this point because it was annoying.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We “helped” Lindsay find her true enneagram number! Dara fought with the fire/logs to light all night! This was Amberly’s birthday month, and even though she was not with us, we sent her a Marco Polo to say hi (couldn’t make a phone call work this time.)

What We Ate: Dara made her FAMOUS roasted chicken for us with carrots, potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts. We also had a chocolate chocolate chip Nothing Bundt Cake with cream cheese frosting with our tea.