Better Than New (★★★★☆)

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Nicole Curtis   *   Artisan   *   October 18, 2016   *   224 Pages

Nicole Curtis is the host of Rehab Addict, a show on HGTV that aims to restore old, dilapidated homes while staying as true to the original architecture and detailing as possible. I love HGTV, but, truthfully, I never LOVE-loved Rehab Addict. I definitely appreciate how determined Curtis is to bringing these old homes back to life, but I guess it always frustrated me that she wasn’t willing to do more than restore. I mean, it’s great if you can reuse cabinets or fixtures or tile, but if the kitchen is too small for a real, modern-day family, well, that needs to be fixed. A house should look nice, sure, but it also needs to function.

Still, even if I was never fully on board with her methods, there’s no denying that Curtis has a magnetic personality. In the show, she comes across as incredibly hard-working and kind. She’s so clearly dedicated to making these homes better, you can’t help but share her enthusiasm. It’s also entertaining to watch this teeny tiny person (who is drop dead gorgeous to boot) drive a tractor, demolish buildings, and wield a chainsaw. It’s just kind of unexpected.

Better Than New is a behind-the-scenes book. There are eight chapters, each told from Curtis’s perspective and each focusing on one or two different houses that she’s restored on the show. Curtis talks about what was going on in her life at the time of each renovation–who she was working with, how things were going with her son, who she was dating (eek), and various random issues that would come up during the projects. In other words, this is definitely more of a memoir than a how-to on decorating. For that reason, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to people who aren’t already fans of the show, but those who are familiar with Rehab Addict will no doubt enjoy knowing what goes in to making a show like that work.

I will say that I could have done with less romantic relationship play-by-play. Curtis is such a sweet and genuine person, and I don’t want to be too critical. But, yowza, she sure gets herself into some sticky–and, from my point of view, wholly avoidable–situations. Her life is basically a cautionary tale against mixing business and pleasure. Good Lord. I feel bad for some of the stuff she’s had to go through and for how she was treated in certain relationships, but I still don’t need to know the he-said-she-said details, you know? It just gets too personal, too specific, too messy. I don’t want to be a part of that.

But I did enjoy reading about everything else in the book. Curtis is passionate and wears her heart on her sleeve. Her projects haven’t always been smooth sailing, but it’s clear that she has brought a whole lot of joy to a whole lot of people. (I loved the chapter on the Campbell Street Project for that very reason.) Nicole, I sincerely wish you the best of luck in life! (But maybe stop trying to renovate houses with your boyfriends…)

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