Friday, December 31, 2021

Wholehearted Faith

Author: Rachel Held Evans (with Jeff Chu)

One-sentence summary: Notes from Rachel's final (incomplete) book in combination with editing and finessing by Jeff Chu give us Rachel's take on what it means to live our faith wholeheartedly, not leaving out any part of us in doing so. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: We loved hearing words from Rachel again. Anything. 

Our least favorite thing about it: That she was never able to finish it herself. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Honesty, Worthiness, Style/Tone

Our favorite quote: “Wholeheartedness means that we can be doubtful and still find rest in the tender embrace of a God who isn't threatened by human inconsistency.”

Notes: We loved reading this book but simultaneously hated that this will be the last word from Rachel. We could also tell that the book didn't feel like her other ones. It felt not as cohesive, which we understood, obviously. We also had the feeling that there wasn't anything "new" that was in this book that we hadn't heard from Rachel before. That being said, what did seem new (or just more pronounced?) was her focus on her own self-reflection, her faults and weaknesses. She seemed introspective a lot in this book. What was familiar was her conversational, casual writing style that we love. 

There are a few things that Rachel reiterates: our worthiness and her doubt. So many times she begins a sentence with, "on the days I believe..." and it's a great thing for people to read and normalize. It's one of the things that drew us to her after reading her very first book. 

Overall we found ourselves nodding along while we read or listened because Rachel has a way with words and such wisdom. We loved the experience of reading this book and are so glad it was made into being by loving friends. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our Christmas meeting at Stephanie's house! We at pizza at Bankhead Brewing Co, exchanged gifts, played our year-in-review Jeopardy game, and built/decorated gingerbread houses at midnight before heading home around 1am. Too much fun stuff for one evening!

What We Ate: Brussels sprouts, pretzel, and artichoke cheese dip for appetizers. Several types of pizza for dinner, and a dessert sampler (cheesecake, mini bundt cakes, and mini pecan pies). 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

This Tender Land

Author: William Kent Krueger

One-sentence summary: Four kids set out on their own to find a better life and their adventures down the river lead them to many interesting and impactful encounters. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 7

Our favorite thing about it: The interesting characters the kids run into on their journey. (Great supporting cast.)

Our least favorite thing about it: The audio narration was not great. The narrator trailed off toward the end of sentences and was very hard to hear. (This probably affected some of our ratings.)

Main Topics of Discussion: Hardship, Redemption, Mystical/Magical, God/Religion/Faith, Safety

Our favorite quote: “Of all that we're asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness.”

Notes: We had wildly varying thoughts about this book, but notably, those who listened to it liked it less than those who read it. The narrator wasn't the best so that made a difference, apparently. And some of us had a hard time getting into the story. There were also a long list of one hardship after another that happened to the kids and it felt relentless to some of us while reading. You're not always in the mood for that no matter how beautiful and well done the writing is. 

However, those of us who liked it thought the story was great, the characters both relatable and vivid, and the imagery beautiful. Many of the "side" characters were stars in their own right and we really enjoyed them (Gertie, Sister Eve, the Aunt). We loved the redemption at the end as well as the thread of religion/faith and searching for God throughout. Especially through the eyes of children. We thought the author did an excellent job of writing a 12 year old boy's perspective and making us care about him even though we are much older women. The magical and mystical parts of the story and characters fit in just perfectly and that alone shows how well-crafted the novel is. One bone to pick, though - the title of the book is not great. It sounds just fine but doesn't describe the book at all. We all had much different expectations of what it was about based on the title. And the phrase, "this tender land" is mentioned once in a beautiful turn of phrase, but otherwise doesn't speak to the main thrust or themes of the story. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: The chili was very memorable - SO good!

What We Ate: San Pellegrino Pomegranate Cocktails, Chili, Cornbread, Kale Salad, cheesecake brownies

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Rose Code

Author: Kate Quinn

One-sentence summary: A top secret crew of elite code-breakers navigates the secrets of war, but their loyalties are tested when a traitor betrays them all and they must figure out how and why. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: A fantastic story set in one of our favorite time periods.

Our least favorite thing about it: 

Main Topics of Discussion: War, Secrets, Friendship, Relationships, Teamwork, Women

Our favorite quote: “Are not there little chapters in everybody’s life, Beth had read in Vanity Fair only that morning, that seem to be nothing, and yet affect all the rest of history?”

Notes: We love stories set during WWII. With so many different parts of the world involved there are endless interesting stories to be told both true and fictional - or a mix of both like this one. We really liked all three women main characters- they each had distinct voices and really added to the depth of the story. We liked how the author did not shy away from pointing out all the ways women suffered in relationships and in society just for being women. In fact, some of that misogyny drove some plot points. Especially upsetting is Beth's ultimate storyline - ending up in an asylum with no evidence whatsoever. 

There were many great nuggets of truth about war, which we though were well-placed. Many of those came from Francis's poems and letters to/from Mab. We also liked the fact that no one person saved the day - both in the war and in solving the traitor mystery/Rose code. The whole team was needed to get the job done. 

And the whole issue of secrecy was both fascinating and mind-blowing. That a married couple could have been involved in the same top secret mission and not know it because they were that committed to keeping the state secret is a lesson to us in dedication from another time and something we don't really fully understand. Books about Bletchley Park are so interesting because it was unknown for so long. We really enjoyed this one a lot. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: We celebrated Lindsay's birthday month. 

What We Ate: Various dishes from Seasons 52 and fall-themed donuts from Detour Donuts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

With the Fire on High

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
One-sentence summary: A talented teen chef navigates school, work, and motherhood while trying to pursue her dream. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: Quick read, interesting story. 

Our least favorite thing about it: It was not a plot-driven story. Not a lot "happened."

Main Topics of Discussion: Parents/Parenthood, High School, Dreams/Goals, Relationships

Our favorite quote: “My Aunt Sara says it's in our blood, an innate need to tell a story through food. 'Buela says it's definitely a blessing, magic.”

Notes: We universally liked this book. The story didn't build to a big, climactic moment, but it kept us engaged nonetheless. We loved hearing from a perspective we don't often hear from - a teenage mom. And this voice was engaging and interesting. We thought her character was very realistic and honest too. We liked that she had an obvious innate talent, but that she still had things to learn and that she was challenged by her teacher and chef. The navigation of the various relationships in the book was really well done and enjoyable to read even when those parts were hard or unpleasant. Overall a great story and a worthwhile read. 

Memorable Meeting Moments: Lindsay treated us to lots of Frozen-themed decorations and we celebrated Dara's birthday month. 

What We Ate: Charcuterie, Chicken and Rice, Salad, and Crumbl cookies

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The People We Meet on Vacation

Author: Emily Henry

One-sentence summary: Two former best friends who used to travel together find themselves thrown together on a trip again and they confront the things that tore them apart.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 6

Our favorite thing about it: We thought it could make a good movie.

Our least favorite thing about it: It was stereotypical and predictable.

Main Topics of Discussion: Friendship, Travel, Communication, Goals

Our favorite quote: “Like a good book or an incredible outfit, being on vacation transports you into another version of yourself.”

Notes: We all expected to like this book more than we actually did. The main character was not likeable to most of us and that starts us off on a bad foot. Then, there were so many unrealistic elements to the story that it took us right out of it and made us not really care about the characters. We saw where the plot was going the whole time, which is not always a bad thing, but in this case it was. One of our main beefs was that the two main characters did have a realistic problem – they had very different life goals. But the author was trying to shoehorn their relationship to work despite that. And sometimes that works and sometimes it feels forced. Last thing – we thought the title was not a good representation of the book. Yes, there was travel involved, but the “meeting people” part is wildly misrepresented by the title. You get the idea that there will be many interesting people they meet…and that is not the case. We hear about one or two and they have nothing to do with the plot or the development of the characters. All of these negative things make it sound like we didn’t enjoy the book. We mostly did – we just had lots of things bother us about it! It was an easy, quick read that some may enjoy more than others.

Memorable Meeting Moments: We were at the lake house. We rented a boat again and had some…difficulty anchoring at Hell’s Gate (finally got it). It was fine. ;) We did some face masks together this year. 

What We Ate: The usual stuff – beef tacos, eggs, pizza, cookies. This year we added Thursday evening charcuterie instead of stopping for dinner on the way to the lake house.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Project Hail Mary

 Author: Andy Weir 

One-sentence summary:  A high school science teacher wakes up on a spaceship in different galaxy on a mission to save Earth with a companion he didn’t even know existed. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating:  8 

Our favorite thing about it:  Unique, interesting, and engaging story. 

Our least favorite thing about it:  Cheesy ending and Rocky being very conveniently good at everything that Ryland wasn’t. 

Main Topics of Discussion: Aliens, Space, Sci-Fi, Science, plot 

Our favorite quote:  “I've gone from "sole-surviving space explorer" to "guy with a wacky new roommate." It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.” 

Notes:  We all really enjoyed reading or listening to this book. The listeners said they really enjoyed the portrayal of Rocky and felt like the book was probably much better by audio than just reading. This was a unique story with unique problems presented in the plot and that was one of our favorite things about the book. The author managed to infuse enough science without overdoing it (although some of us still skimmed sciency parts). We were slightly divided on the ending for Grace, though – most of us liked it and thought it fitting. Some of us thought it was way too cheesy. We all liked the relationship between Rocky and Grace. Their back and forth was a highlight of the book. The humor from beginning to end is a trademark of Weir’s and we all enjoyed it. We liked that the story didn’t take too dark of a turn despite the fact that this was a suicide earth-saving mission. It felt light. Some parts were a little too convenient and predictable, but overall, we liked this book. 

Memorable Meeting Moments:  It was Christina’s birthday month 

What We Ate:  A Mediterranean Feast! Hummus, Tzatziki, cucumber and pita. Greek salad, shrimp, lamb with couscous and zucchini/yellow squash. And a flourless lemon glazed cake with dairy free ice cream.