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.

You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs by Laurie Graff

1807344When I was in my early 20s, I really loved the books from the Red Dress Ink imprint. I was new to chick lit as a genre and really, new to reading for pleasure that wasn’t Sweet Valley High. I made it my mission to try to read as many of the RDI books as I could. The imprint has long since closed, but I still like to pick up any RDI books I find at used bookstores and the local library book sale.

I initially liked this book because its protagonist was over 40, which is VERY rare in early 2000s chick lit. She’s an actress, sure, but she’s not a 28-year-old bemoaning how she’ll always be alone. However, most of the book is told in flashbacks (to the 1990s!) about her various shitty dates and boyfriends and reading about bad dates from 20 years ago isn’t as cute as it would have been when the book was published in 2003. It was far longer than it needed to be the ending was not at all earned, IMO.

But first book of 2019 FINALLY finished. Moving on to some inspiration women’s memoirs in March since it IS Women’s History Month.

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

40411206Gilmore Girls got me through a break up in the early ’00s, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since, even if I spent most of the later seasons screaming, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?!” When it announced that the show was going to be part of the current revival craze that’s sweeping Hollywood, I was nervous because though it took a long time to get there, I felt the show was left in a good place: Luke and Lorelai presumably together, Rory off to be a reporter, and Richard and Emily doing their Hartford thing, but getting along with Lorelai for the first time ever.

However, reading Lauren Graham’s recollection of her time on set made me reconsider it. Most of her memoir feels like the normal things – how she grew up, how she struggled as an actor, how she got her big break, how things have changed for her, and now she’s filming the revival. It was a fun read and I’ve always like Lauren Graham (Northern Virginia gals gotta stick together!), but the best part was really her little diary about the revival. I really enjoyed the tiny moments where Kelly Bishop remembered Edward Herrmann and how Lauren tried to get everyone she ever met into a scene somehow (let’s be besties, Lauren – I wanna be on Gilmore Girls!) I was a little surprised how few Scott stories there were, but I guess the central relationship on this show was always Lauren and Alexis.

Anyway, at just over 200 pages, it’s a quick read with some cute stories. If you liked Lauren Graham before, this won’t change your mind (and vice versa). I’m curious to check out her fiction books to see if her manic energy is present there as well.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

36608892Georgie and Darcy are married!

 

 ETA 3/24/19: I clearly forgot to finish reviewing this and now I’ve forgotten much of the book. But publishing this to remind me to come back for it later.