How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis

33155461After a few months of gymnast memoirs and Joel McHale books, I needed a change of pace. I went through my To Be Read list and pulled a few of the new releases through InterLibrary loan. I decided to start the beautiful stack of books with Stacey Ballis because I know it’ll be a quick read that makes me hungry. I swear I end up buying her books most of the time, just for the recipes in the back (even though they are always WAY above my meager skill level – some people make their own croutons?!)

Once I got past how unrelatable [to my life] the main character is (I mean, she’s a private chef to the kindest billionaires ever, so she never worries about money), Eloise is pretty great. After losing her favorite teacher, she reconnects with her high school best friends just as they are about to turn 40. They decide to challenge each other to life improvement plans, with the losers having to donate to charity if they don’t finish.

I totally related to meeting back up with people you were friends with in high school after life happened to all of you and realizing that maybe you wouldn’t be friends with them if you met them today. Eloise is a LOT kinder to her frenemy than I would be, and it’s never really explained WHY she needs her in her life. The romance starts out super cute and then it veers into unbelievable. I kept waiting for the conflict to happen, the thing that breaks them up for a while before they get together in the end, but it just never comes. I mean there’s a conflict, but it’s dumb and Eloise could really just skip it.

IMG_2753All that to say, I did really enjoy this book and it was a super quick read. I finished the middle third with this view during my recent trip to Vegas, so it was never going to be bad. I wish the two high school friends had been fleshed out more than “stay-at-home mom” and “PR maven who only thinks about her career,” but I guess we only get to see Eloise’s point of view. The book also made me want to go back to Chicago on vacation, so I guess that’s a win as well, since it was probably snowing while I was reading.

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Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be by Joel McHale

29429952Do you like Joel McHale? If yes, then you’ll love this book. If no, what the hell are you doing here? My mom thinks Joel is kinda funny, and she kinda liked this book when I lent it to her (sorry, Joel!). The theory checks out.

Though Joel McHale was not my first E! clip show about television show host crush (that honor goes to John Henson – who I almost met during my LA life at a taping of a failed talk show pilot – and his lovely skunk streak!), he’s my longest lasting one. He’s also one of the first people I remember following on Twitter (I joined for Rainn Wilson and Paul Feig, but Joel is the first one I kept). Our greatest Twitter interaction came in 2012:

Which of course led him to slide into my DMs:
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We did not start a torrid Twitter affair (something about him being in love with his wife and me being too star-struck to respond – whatever), but I realized the power of the celebrity talk show host/sitcom-that’s-not-a-traditional-sitcom star. And luckily, four years later, he came out with a book to allow me to harness that power for myself. And when I finally read it two years later, it was pretty funny.

Like all celebrities, the beginning is humble, the middle is funny, but it goes on for much longer than anyone would prefer. Would I buy it again? Nah, that’s what libraries are for. But he got my money, and really, that’s all he cares about.

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles

31847558Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast and one of the best (if not the best) we’ve ever seen. She doesn’t just win, she blows the competition away by full points. My fav, Aly Raisman, even joked that winning the all-around silver at the Rio Olympics was like winning first because no one had a chance when competing against Simone.

Simone’s memoir takes a surface look at her life from bouncy toddler of a mother who had to give her up to her grandparents (who adopted her and became her parents) to Olympic Gold Medalist. Gymnastics (or at least tumbling) seemed to come naturally to her and you can feel her joy for the sport in the pages. Her concentration on things like deals about belly button rings display her bubbly personality and youth. She’s surprisingly self-aware her bad attitude in practice as she went through her teen years, which is refreshing if hard to believe.

The book ends with her carrying the flag for the U.S. delegation into the closing ceremonies of the Rio Olympics. She’s upbeat, positive, and full of possibility. She only has good things to say about USAG, the Ranch, and her experience in gymnastics. Reading it after Aly’s book and knowing her #metoo story, I wonder how she’d change things today. Nevertheless, I look forward to Simone’s return to competition and the continuation of her story!

Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything by Aly Raisman

As you can see, I didn’t come close to my reading goal last year. But I’m back at it again, hoping to get through the pile of books I’ve accumulated in the last couple of years. More time reading is one of my New Year’s resolutions.

35565694I’ve loved gymnastics as long as I can remember. Shannon Miller was my first favorite gymnast. Then Carly Patterson. Then Shawn Johnson. Then Aly Raisman.

I first remember seeing Aly Raisman at the 2012 National Championships. All the commentators were talking about Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas. I kept yelling at the TV – “What about Aly? She’s really good.” Same thing at the Olympic Trials. And when Aly got the second all-around spot over Jordyn at the 2012 Olympics, no one seemed to care that Aly was better; it was all about how Jordyn had been two-per-countried (which is rightfully a dumb thing that should be gotten rid of). All this to say, Aly’s my girl and I think she’s amazing.

When she announced she was going to write a book a year after the 2016 Games, I was psyched to read it. She’s the one that everyone counted out, but depended on when it mattered. The workhorse. I wanted to hear what it felt like to be in that position. Then she revealed she was one of Larry Nassar’s victims, and my heart broke for her. The book isn’t about that, but she is very clear that what happened was awful, it could happen to anyone, and it needs to be stopped.

Her treatment by USA Gymnastics was appalling in many instances (listen to the GymCastic review for most of them!) and I’m happy to see that she’s not be cowed to be quiet. But there are times when she tells stories that are so demeaning or ridiculous, but you can tell she doesn’t get that it was wrong – just that’s how it was, which breaks my heart.

The book is definitely aimed at young gymnasts who want to read about their hero, so it’s not a challenging read, but it’s still interesting. I can’t wait to see what Aly does next!

It’s a Vet’s Life by Cathy Woodman

11842742It took me forever to finish this book, and I think I’m done with the series. As I felt with the last book I read in this series, I’m just not feeling it.

Maz and Alex are still plodding along in Talyton St. George and decide to get married. But Alex’s father, Old Fox-Gifford, is making mistakes at work and not doing well, which throws a wrench in things. You go through about 60% of the book with Maz complaining about wedding planning and their new vet, but nothing bad happens. Then something bad DOES happen and it’s resolved in like 20 pages and everything is rosy again.

The country life is not for me, it seems. Take me back to London!