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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

One-sentence summary: A young maji sets out on a quest after discovering that there is a way to return magic to her people and have a chance at wrenching power away from the king who not only banished magic, but also slaughtered her mother and many other maji.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The exciting story and the overall theme of overcoming oppression.

Our least favorite thing about it: The rushed romance story line and graphic violence in places.

Main Topics of Discussion: Oppression, Power, Magic, Revenge, Evil, Empathy

Our favorite quote: “They don't hate you, my child. They hate what you were meant to become.”

Notes: In general, we really liked this book. It was a good, mostly well-paced story, and it was interesting. There were, however, a few flaws. And we wish that the execution was a bit better. Here are a few things we discussed:

1. We love characters we can root for – and we did root for Tzain and Amari. However, we wanted to like Zelie more than we did. She just was not as interesting to us as Amari. Most of us agreed that we wouldn’t have minded if she was the main character. Mostly, the character development just wasn’t great.

2. The romance felt rushed and forced. We love a good romance in a novel like this, especially as it adds to the overall story and complexity of the characters. This one came up so fast it made our heads spin (although we could see it coming from a mile away – it hit full force FAST.) We could get behind Zelie and Inan, but we wish it was more of a build-up – maybe even into the next book. We liked how Tzain and Amari did just that – and it has potential to be so much more interesting.

3. We loved that the author explored issues of diversity, power, persecution, and prejudice. These were all excellent (and timely) things to be addressing. And we loved that she used this medium and genre to do it!

4. We felt like the world-building suffered a little. In particular, the magic was a bit undefined and inconsistent. We were all left scratching our heads about it. And maybe that was the point, but it was such a central thing that we would have liked for the magic-stuff to be more concrete.

5. We all were puzzled by the naval battle in the coliseum. What in the world was that? We thought maybe the author was just trying to get creative with a well-used plot point, but it just seemed so weird to us.

6. We felt like the ideas about death and revenge and evil were really muddy. On one hand, Zelie insisted that participating in the naval battle – and killing dozens of innocents - was the ONLY way to get the stone. In novels we’ve liked, there is always another way. And we root for the character who works hard enough and sacrifices to find that way. And then, toward the end, Zelie (perhaps because of her torture?) decides that the ship they need should be overtaken – but without killing anyone. Huh? Maybe this is supposed to be character development, but it just seemed inconsistent and clunky.

7. We felt the ending was pretty rushed. A LOT happened in just a short amount of time, which seemed inconsistent with the pacing of the rest of the book.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Christina took us to Mexican Sugar for dinner and back to her apartment for dessert and discussion. It was Rachel’s birthday month and the ladies killed it with the funny cards!

What We Ate: We ALL ordered the enchiladas – 4 chicken, and one steak. We also had queso blanco, salsa, and some amazing cocktails. Christina made a peanut butter, chocolate cookie bar bake for us and it was gooey and delicious!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Comfort and Joy

Author: Kristin Hannah

One-sentence summary: A woman dealing with tragic life events finds herself at a remote lodge after a plane wreck where she both gives help and healing to a little boy and receives some in return.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: We loved that this was a fun, fast, easy and light read that was perfectly set at Christmas time.

Our least favorite thing about it: We thought it was a little predictable and that the tough situations were wrapped up too fast.

Main Topics of Discussion: Forgiveness, Hallmark Movies, Setting, Supernatural

Our favorite quote: “It is amazing how quickly a bone can heal. If only the heart were as durable.”

Notes: Overall, we liked this book and we thought it was well-suited for a light, fun winter read. We enjoyed that the setting was during winter and at Christmas time. The story was mostly enjoyable – if we totally put away our criticisms and just enjoyed it! Here are our other thoughts:

1. One of the first things we discussed was how the forgiveness of Joy’s sister and ex-husband felt so immediate. We saw her struggle with it, but ultimately, it was tied up in a neat bow by the end of 270 pages and it just didn’t ring true to us. However, we can mostly dismiss this because eventually getting around to that forgiveness is plausible – it just seemed rushed to us.

2. Some of us could see the big plot twist coming from a mile away and others were absorbed in it and didn’t see it coming. We mostly felt that it was better to read it the latter way, if possible. But it just seemed so obvious to some of us and that may have spoiled a little bit of the story.

3. We remarked that this whole book was a bit like the Twilight Zone and a Hallmark Movie wrapped into one. These are mostly good things – especially if that’s what you’re expecting from the book. The plot moves quickly, love develops really fast (without explanation, really), and the ending is neatly packaged and positive.

4. We did talk about how this seemed like a departure for Kristin Hannah – at least from the other one or two novels we’ve read. We’ve all read The Nightingale, and at least two of us have read The Great Alone. Both of those novels feel MUCH more lengthy and weighty than this one, so it came as a bit of a surprise from this author. Not necessarily a negative, but just not what we expected.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We spent the second half of our meeting in Lindsay’s living room, giving gifts and discussing the book. Dara told us she likes little things (which is why Lindsay suspects she likes her!). We played our yearly Jeopardy game and enjoyed a lovely fire. We also sent Amberly a Marco Polo from all of us since we were not able to FaceTime her during our meeting this time.

What We Ate: Stephanie took us to Bankhead Brewery in Rowlett. It was a new place to all of us but her and we loved it all. We had BLTA Dip and Brisket fries for appetizers, and Pizzas, Fish Tacos, and Meatballs for entrees. The cocktails and beer were great too! Stephanie made us some delicious caramel chocolate fudge for dessert.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Spark of Light

Author: Jodi Picoult

One-sentence summary: An abortion clinic is attacked and a hostage situation plays out with flash backs to the past and the characters individual stories.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The author showcases the human element in the abortion issue along with a balanced, nuanced discussion of it.

Our least favorite thing about it: The sporadic, non-linear timeline.

Main Topics of Discussion: Abortion, Pregnancy, Motherhood, Religion, Stories

Our favorite quote: “We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”

Notes: This is another book that we anticipated liking more than we did. Again, we didn’t really dislike it, but it didn’t live up to our expectations. The last Jodi Picoult book we read together (Great Small Things) was infinitely better than this one. The bar was high. Other thoughts:

1. The biggest, most annoying thing to us about this book was how the timeline jumped around. It was not linear and was very hard for all of us to follow with so many story lines bouncing around. Not only did we have to figure out whose story it was, but we had to figure out when – and remember what had already happened and what hadn’t yet happened. We universally disliked this for our reading experience.

2. We felt like some of the exposition about abortion (even through the women’s stories) was repetitive. Maybe that was necessary, but we definitely noticed it.

3. A corollary to #1, there were a lot of characters. Almost too many. We appreciate that the author wanted to provide a variety of stories intersecting around this abortion clinic, and it mostly worked.
4. We felt slightly manipulated by the Beth/Lil name-game. There’s a fine line between a really great twist near the end of a book and your readers feeling deceived – this line was almost crossed this time.

5. We really did appreciate how stories were used to show many of the nuanced issues and events surrounding abortions or even just reasons why a woman would be at an abortion clinic – for an abortion or not. This was very interesting and we appreciated how it gave the issue human faces, which is always helpful.

6. There was a strong theme of children (mostly women, since that’s the focus of this book) without mothers. In this same vein, we felt that Beth and Wren’s lives almost paralleled too much: no mothers, only fathers, etc. It almost seemed too perfect for the narrative.

7. The ending left many questions unanswered. While we’re not strangers to that, sometimes it still leaves a reader dissatisfied. For some of us, that was true at the end of this book.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was officially Amberly’s meeting and was her book pick, but since she is in China, we met at Rachels’ house. We did get to chat with Amberly and her opinions on the book are included in our thoughts above.

What We Ate: A huge charcuterie spread. And wine. 😊

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel (aka – the longest name ever)

One-sentence summary: After a world-wide apocalyptic event, how do people survive and what is essential for survival?

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: This was just a fantastic, engaging story about humanity – we loved all of it.

Our least favorite thing about it: The bleak setting.

Main Topics of Discussion: Hope, Survival, Art, Humanity, Loss

Our favorite quote: “Survival is insufficient.”

Notes: We all really loved this book. The story was just so enthralling and we wanted to know how everything worked out. The ending is, of course, not neat and tidy, but there is a fair amount of closure on most things. Our other thoughts:

1. The book focuses on hope as inevitable. We loved this and loved how it was shown in various ways.

2. We also loved how the author pointed out that pain is also inevitable. Not just after the apocalypse, but before it too.

3. We thought the apocalyptic event described in the book was believable, and we appreciated that. We also thought all the details about an event like that and the aftermath were very interesting. What exactly would happen – electricity, water, transportation, etc. Apocalyptic events are often described in general terms, or books take place only in the “after” with no discussion of the actual breakdown of society. As sobering as that discussion was, it was the details that really sold the story.

4. There was a general atmosphere of haunting and eeriness – which was essential to the story (the author nailed it) and unsettling.

5. We liked the discussion in the book (and our own) of whether it would be better to forget the “before” or not.

6. We talked about our before/after events – like 9/11, having kids, etc.

7. We loved the theme of art moving humanity forward and sustaining them through creation and hope. The music, plays, and even the comic books were stars of the story in their own right.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was Lindsay’s birthday month. We also go to use Rachel’s new pool for the first time at a meeting. We got in the hot tub and ate our meal outside.

What We Ate: Beef and Bean Stew and salad. Spice cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert.