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!

A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy

27434560Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors of all time, and I was devastated by her passing in 2012. However, I’m forever grateful to her husband and publishers for continuing to publish her work after her death.

It’s bittersweet to read each of these stories, designed to stand on their own, knowing that she could have easily built another charming novel around each of them. Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to finish this collection of short stories; I would get so caught up in each other, and it would be jarring to leave that universe and start in a new one after only 5-10 pages.

My favorite pieces were the ones where the heroine (almost all of the stories have female protagonists) doesn’t realize how awful she is; we really are all the heroes of our own lives. Some of the “lessons” learned were a little heavy handed, and some of the stories haven’t aged as well as others. But each of the 36 stories was a fun peek into Ms. Binchy’s creative universe, and I’m sorry she’s not still here to play in it.

No Starbucks for a Year

It’s November again, which means it’s Jenniversary time! Every year, I make resolutions for the coming month and/or year. These have been hit and miss for the past couple of years, so this year, I’m trying to create achievable goals that will still challenge me.

For this year’s #Jenniversary Challenge, I’ve chosen three month-long goals and one year-long goal.

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