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!

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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.

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.

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.