I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

40702156It’s been about a year since I last read anything by Sophie Kinsella, who I really love. And just like last time, I wanted to like this book more than I did.

For the first half of the book, I want to scream at Fixie Farr, our heroine, who never says what she means and gets taken advantage of by basically everyone she knows. It’s frustrating to watch, but then you think, what would people think if they were reading about me and my stupid quirks? Our hero doesn’t get fleshed out as well as I’d like for him being our hero, but it’s nice that he’s got hang ups too. And of course, when they get together two-thirds of the way through, you know something’s going to come blow it up.

I wish there was a little more in the resolution, especially of the family bit, since it seems like it would be harder for everyone to change so quickly. But maybe if you love hard enough, it breaks through the barriers.

The Art of French Kissing by Kristin Harmel

1013522I finished about half of this book while I was getting a pedicure yesterday and I seriously didn’t want to stop. I think I like this one better than the first novel I read by her, though this didn’t have the “heart” of Italian for Beginners.

Our heroine gets dumped by her fiance and downsized by her job in the same week. Her local friends suck, but her old friend from study abroad comes through with a PR job in Paris. Emma’s no fool, so she flies to Paris to manage a rising music star during his album release. It’s pre-iPhone era, which is always a fun time travel, without going all the way back to the 90s.

It’s never fully explained why Guillaume does the things that he does, but it does seem like he’s not a total asshole, which helps. Emma’s family sucks, but luckily, they are only there in the beginning and the end-ish. I really loved how Emma and Gabe kept coming together and while I hated their reconciliation (SO unrealistic, even for chick lit!), I was happy that things did work out. And of course, now I want to go to Paris!

There’s a Cake in my Future by Kim Gruenenfelder

8563495I got this book from the library last week and I couldn’t put it down. It starts with a weird premise of pulling cake charms from an engagement party cake. The bride-to-be sets it up so that everyone is supposed to get a certain charm, but the set up gets messed up and everyone gets a different one. Then things start to spiral.

I couldn’t really relate to Nicole’s story, she of the marrying a guy who has kids and a crappy ex-wife, but it was nice to see her evolve her thinking as the book went on. I like that all the women weren’t white, and I really enjoyed Seema’s plot, even if it ended up a little cliched. Mel was a lot to handle for much of the book since she kinda goes off the deep end, but I did really like how the other two friends kept their mouths shut when needed and kicked her butt when needed, like real friends do.

The three POVs were a lot at the beginning, but the author does a great job of making them all different people, not just different plots. And with the cliffhanger ending, I’ve ordered the next book in the series from the library, which I can’t wait to get!

Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel

italian I picked up this novel at the library book sale last year, based primarily on the title, cover art, and summary that a lady in her mid-30s is off to Rome on a whim. I haven’t had the best luck with $1 novels from the book sale, but this one was AMAZING!

Cat Connelly is stuck in her life, even though she doesn’t feel like she is. A messed up childhood has left her feeling responsible for her father and sister, even though she’s nearly 35. After meeting a nice guy at her sister’s wedding who is NOT what she thought, she’s convinced to take a month off and head to Rome. It gets a little Roman Holiday from there (or so I’m told since I’ve not seen the film), but it does make me want to hop a plane tomorrow!

I enjoyed Cat finding out the truth of her family situation, finding her new passion, and meeting good people who help her with all of the above. As someone who is planning a trip to one of my parents’ childhood countries (though no traumatic event is inspiring it!), it made me excited to explore a new place and see if maybe I might fit there too.

Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance by Valorie Kondos Field

38744007I’ve been vaguely aware of NCAA gymnastics since high school, but I never went out of my way to watch a meet the same way I watched Elite or the Olympics. Since starting to listen to Gymcastic three years ago, I’ve become much more aware of college gymnastics. Combine that with Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian heading to UCLA after their Olympic experience, and you’ve got a brand-new UCLA gymnastics fan!

I went to my first college gymnastics meet ever (and only my third in-person meet ever – first one in 15 years!) earlier this year when UCLA came to Stanford in January. I got to see Kyla Ross perform near perfect bars (one of the only times she wouldn’t get a 10 this season!) about five feet in front of me. IT. WAS. AWESOME!

All that to say, I was intrigued by Miss Val’s book since this is her last season. I wasn’t expecting her to spill the tea (she’s too classy), but hoped for more than a few coaching platitudes. It’s a quick read and from it, I can tell that I would NOT have been a good fit for UCLA gymnastics (should that have been an option). But I can see why she has such a good relationship with her gymnasts and why so many former Elites flock to her program.

The biggest revelation to me was that Katelyn Ohashi was so fucked up by Elite gymnastics that during her freshman year she admitted out loud during a group activity that she didn’t want to be great. Given her level of success and her positive attitude as an upperclassman, it’s a testament to Miss Val and to Katelyn’s hard work that she’s overcome a lot of the past and learned to love the sport again. It was also interesting to me that apparently UCLA gymnastics practices are open to well-meaning fans that show up, which seems CRAZY, but good to know, I guess.

All in all, Miss Val and I have very different philosophies, but I can see the value in where she’s coming from.