Friday, November 22, 2019

The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson

One-sentence summary: A woman gets an invitation to stay at a mysterious and haunted house for research and finds herself strangely attached to the house and it to her.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: It was a short and fast-paced story.

Our least favorite thing about it: It was very odd in many ways and did not meet our expectations.

Main Topics of Discussion: TV vs. Books, Scary Then vs. Now, Relationships – parental, friends, romantic

Our favorite quote: “Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”

Notes: We wanted to love this book more than we actually did. Had we had different expectations, we would have enjoyed it more. Most of us were expecting something very scary and perhaps a little more modern in its story telling style. But what we got was an odd and very creepy story that we didn’t find particularly scary and that confused us with vague conversations between characters that left us scratching our heads. Ultimately, it was a fast and easy read that was fine - just not what we were expecting. Our other thoughts:

  1. Dara (who has seen the whole TV series) noted that not only were the two stories completely different, the TV one was definitely more scary and that affected her read of the book.
  2. Dr. Montague’s wife was hands down the best part of the whole book. Her character and dialogue were priceless. We wondered at her relationship with Arthur.
  3. We noted how the house was one of the characters in the story. Not only does Jackson explicitly give it human characteristics, but it features so much in the action of the story. For example, the layout and shape of the house contribute to its character and how the other characters experience it.
  4. As a continuation of #3, the main question of the book is: did Eleanor kill herself or did the house kill her?
  5. And further, the house being described as motherly fed into the theme of terrible relationships with mothers such as Eleanor had with hers. The house was soft and even inviting at first and then turned dark and cruel. It’s an interesting description and look into mothers – and the house.
  6. We wondered how the action sometimes was glossed over. Things would happen and then never really be discussed. It was also odd that everyone was so chill about the haunting experiences. They just took them for granted and moved on. It was weird.


Memorable Meeting Moments: We got to tour Dara’s newly renovated home and see her new wood floors!

What We Ate: Josh made Braised Short Ribs for us, served over a Butternut Squash Risotto with roasted Brussels Sprouts. Dara made her Pumpkin Crumble with Whipped Cream for dessert.








Sunday, October 13, 2019

The One in a Million Boy

Author: Monica Wood

One-sentence summary: Grieving parents and a very elderly woman cope with loss by remembering together and finding a connection.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: Having and elderly character as a main character was fun, fresh, and enlightening.

Our least favorite thing about it: The skipping around between past and present was a little disorienting.

Main Topics of Discussion: Loss, Parenting, Aging, Loneliness

Our favorite quote: “The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything in school?”

Notes: We all liked this book. It maybe didn’t “wow” us, but it was at least somewhat interesting and fun to read. Having the perspective of the elderly woman was different and interesting – to think about things from her point of view – one that none of us has reached yet. We do not mind a book that skips around in time, but this one seemed to do it in a clunky way that sometimes bothered us. We also felt like the narrative dragged a bit in the middle. There’s not a lot going on, which is fine, but we all felt the drag. Here are a few other things we found important or interesting:

  1. The audio version was marred by the voice of Quinn. Not good.
  2. The boy was almost entirely absent. He was only seen through the other characters impressions and memories of him. He was never named. We thought this was an interesting choice on the part of the author. The boy ties everyone together, yet, he’s an unnamed, and not really main character. We do get to know him a bit, though.
  3. We found it interesting that the whole book revolved around the death of a young boy, but yet, it didn’t seem heavy or depressing, really
  4. But, we had a hard time coming up with a quick explanation of what exactly this book was about. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that vagueness probably did keep it from being more impactful for us.
  5. None of us loved Quinn. We know the book said he had an issue with not being able to access or feel his emotions. And man, that came through in his non-personality. He was just blah.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We ate at The Barnlight Eatery and then went to Christina’s rental house (her new house is still being repaired from fire damage) for discussion and dessert. It was also Lindsay’s birthday month.

What We Ate: We started out sharing Fried Green Tomatoes, and then all ordered our own entrees: Chili, Shrimp and Grits, Pork and Slaw Sandwich, Pot Roast, Bacon Burger. We had all sorts of cookies and brownies for dessert.












Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Stationery Shop

Author: Marjan Kamali

One-sentence summary: Two young Iranians in love are separated by revenge and war and finally find each other again in their twilight years when they unravel what happened to separate them.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: The story was very compelling and made you want to keep reading.

Our least favorite thing about it: Overall, the story is a bit depressing.

Main Topics of Discussion: Family, War, Guilt, Loss, Deception, Mental Illness

Our favorite quote: “And the young, who love so passionately, have no idea how ugly this world is....This world is without compassion.”

Notes: We all really enjoyed this book. It’s the kind of story that draws you in and provides such character development and detail that it’s so easy and fun to read. The culture of Iran was so much a part of the story and characters, but it was woven into the story in such a way that it was seamless. We loved all those details.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Stephanie took us to a Mediterranean Restaurant so that we could have some of the foods we had read about it the book. It was perfect!

What We Ate: We shared a bowl of the Cilantro Potatoes (a real stand-out!) and some Felafel for our appetizers. Then we all ordered entrees ranging from Kabobs to Shwarma along with Tabouli, Hummus, and rice on the side. We had yummy pumpkin filled crescent rolls at Stephanie’s house.







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.