Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Blog Tour + Review: Shapeshifting

Thank you to Lisa Munley at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for Shapeshifting by Michelle Ross!  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
 
Michelle Ross
Published November 2, 2021
The fourteen spellbinding stories in Michelle Ross’s second collection invite readers into the shadows of social-media perfectionism and the relentless cult of motherhood. A recovering alcoholic navigates the social landscape of a toddler playdate; a mother of two camps out in a van to secure her son’s spot at a prestigious kindergarten; a young girl forces her friends to play an elaborate, unwinnable game. With unflinching honesty and vivid, lyrical prose, Ross explores the familial ties that bind us together—or, sometimes, tear us apart. - from Goodreads
Short story collections are not something I normally gravitate towards, but as a new mom, this collection of stories about motherhood intrigued me.  In Shapeshifting, Michelle Ross brings readers 14 stories that explore different aspects of motherhood and how it changes women.  The stories were all quite different, and I appreciated that.  Each focused on a different type of mother or different stage of motherhood.  I wasn't expecting the stories to feel so realistic or relatable, but some of them really were.  The tone of the stories was a bit more negative and bleak than I was hoping for, but it all did feel very honest.  Some of the stories missed the mark for me - either I felt like I wasn't totally "getting" the intention of the story or they ended too abruptly.  However, there were a couple standouts:

"After Pangaea" - This is the first story in the collection and was a great way to start off.  A woman is compelled to camp out in her car to make sure she's first on the list to get her son into a good kindergarten.  This story touched on how competitive parenting can be, but it also explored how as a mother, she is somewhat expected to do such things, however uncomfortable, for her children, while her husband is praised for doing what seems like the bare minimum at times.  She seems completely unappreciated, and I really felt for the character.

"Lifecycle of an Ungrateful Daughter" - This story is told in vignettes at different stages of the mother/daughter relationship.  The mother has certain hopes of what their relationship will be like, but inevitably she seems to be disappointed.  Motherhood is not what she thought it would be (at least in regards to this child), and although she tries her best, the gap between her and her daughter continues to grow over the years.  

"Three-Week Checkup" - I related to this story about a new mother, Deena, and her struggles to make it through each day.  I could feel her exhaustion and chuckled a bit at how she responded to the pediatrician's questions about the baby's habits.  Thankfully, my husband is way more helpful and involved than Deena's husband, but I still sympathized with her desire to test him and try to get him to help more with the baby.

3.5 stars


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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Didn't Get To


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is 2021 releases we were excited to read but didn't get to.  I tend to read more backlist books than new releases, so there are a ton of 2021 books that I haven't gotten to yet - here's just a partial list!






Which of these should I start with first?

Friday, January 14, 2022

Quick Reviews: Amazon Short Stories

I came across these Amazon original holiday short stories, free for Prime and Kindle Unlimited, and thought they sounded so fun!  And even though the holidays are behind us, I wanted to review them anyway!
 
Model Home by J. Courtney Sullivan (2021)
 
Katie and her husband Damian host a popular home makeover show, but Damian wants to leave the world of reality tv.  Katie, however, is not ready to give up fame and fortune.  Can she convince him to stay?  At only 39 pages, this was definitely a quick read, but also a really fun behind-the-scenes look at the makings of reality tv shows and personas.  While their life appears perfect on the outside, Katie and Damian are struggling.  Katie loves the material things their success has gotten them, while Damian thinks his wife has changed too much.  I liked that Sullivan was able to incorporate a lot of backstory of how Katie and Damian got to this point, but the ending was lacking, at least for me.  It felt so abrupt and I was left wanting more.  3.5 stars
 
Oh. What. Fun. by Chandler Baker (2021)
 
Claire's three adult children are home for the holidays, and she is going above and beyond to make it perfect.  But when Claire disappears during the festivities, the kids are left wondering what's really going on in her mind.  This short story was so relatable.  I loved how the narrator was the collective voice of Claire's kids.  They don't seem to really appreciate or acknowledge all the work that Claire puts into making the holidays special.  They assume she does it because she enjoys it, and so they never offer to help.  Claire, though, has reached her breaking point, and I really felt for her.  I liked that we were able to get a bit of her perspective, too.  The writing is really snappy and fun, and the story moves along at a great pace.  Anyone who has stayed up late to perfectly wrap gifts or cook that special holiday meal, only to watch everything get demolished in 2 minutes flat, will definitely enjoy this story!  4 stars

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Book Lovers

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
 
Emily Henry
Expected publication date: May 3, 2022
One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming…

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves. - from Goodreads

I just love bookish characters, and I'm excited to see the blooming relationship between Nora and Charlie!

Monday, January 10, 2022

2022 Reading and Blogging Goals

 
Today I'm setting my blogging and reading goals for 2022!  I did pretty well on my 2021 goals, so I'm hoping I can do just as well on these!
 
  1. Read Little Women.  This classic has been on my shelf for over two years now, so it's time I finally get to it!
  2. Read 52 books.  I don't know how my reading is going to go this year, especially once I go back to work, so my goal for now is to aim for a book a week.  Maybe some fellow parents can give me some insight or advice?
  3. Don't be so rigid about a blogging schedule.  This goal is rather amorphous, but for the past couple years or so, I've kept to a pretty regular blogging schedule.  I don't want to put pressure on myself to stick to that schedule this year.  I'm sure I will have less time for blogging in general, and less reading may mean fewer reviews.  If I miss a week here or there, I want to be okay with that.
  4. Continue growing my Instagram account.  This is a carryover from last year.  I'm still loving posting pictures on Instagram and I want to continue my growth on that platform.
  5. Reread from my own collection with the intention of pruning my shelves.  My bookshelves are almost out of room at this point, and my goal was always to keep only those books that I've loved and would read again.  So, this year I want to reread from my shelves to see if there are any books that I'm not crazy about anymore and donate them.
  6. Keep track of how much I'm spending on books.  I don't think I spend an exorbitant amount of money on books, but knowing we'll have a lot of extra expenses this year makes me want to be more conscious of where I'm spending my money earmarked for "fun."

 

What are your bookish goals for 2022?

 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Quick Reviews: The Staci Hart Edition

For Love or Honey by Staci Hart (2021)

She's a small-town bee farmer.  He wants to acquire the mineral rights to her land.  They're at complete odds, but their chemistry is undeniable.  This one was a bit of a slow start for me, but it ended up being a great read.  Jo is basically repulsed by Grant at the beginning, because of his job, but she can't help ogling him at every opportunity - it was a weird dynamic for me.  But, I enjoyed when they finally got to know each other and realized their feelings could be deeper than surface level.  I especially liked Grant's growth throughout the story, in terms of both his personal and professional lives.  I always enjoy a small-town setting, so that was fun, although I wish there had been a little more focus on how the residents planned to spruce up Main Street and attract more business.  I felt like this secondary storyline could have used more attention.  Overall, though, another steamy, romantic hit from Staci Hart!  4 stars

Love Notes (The Austens #4) by Staci Hart (2018)
 
As much as I love Staci Hart's books, this one was unfortunately a bit of a miss for me.  Annie and her family move to NYC to live with relatives after the loss of her father and their family home.  Even though she has a heart defect, Annie is determined to live her life to the fullest and gets a job at a local bookstore.  There she meets Greg.  Even though they friendzone each other, it's clear there's deeper feelings at play.  This book is inspired by Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, which I haven't read.  Annie's character is innocent and naive (I mean, she's only 18, but seems much younger).  Her actions and words were sometimes so frustrating.  Although the setting is thoroughly contemporary, the writing (and especially Annie's dialogue) felt very old-fashioned at times, like it was trying to emulate Austen.  It didn't work here, especially when other characters talked like regular modern people and Annie was speaking in such purple prose.  There were so many story elements to keep track of; at times it almost felt like there was too much going on.  But, I liked Greg's character and how he struggled not to show his feelings for Annie but eventually couldn't hold them in anymore, and the secondary characters also added some lightness to what was a heavy story at times.  3 stars

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Our Last Days in Barcelona

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
 
Chanel Cleeton
Expected publication date: May 24, 2022
When Isabel Perez travels to Barcelona to save her sister Beatriz, she discovers a shocking family secret in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s new novel.

Barcelona, 1964. Exiled from Cuba after the revolution, Isabel Perez has learned to guard her heart and protect her family at all costs. After Isabel’s sister Beatriz disappears in Barcelona, Isabel goes to Spain in search of her. Joining forces with an unlikely ally thrusts Isabel into her sister’s dangerous world of espionage, but it’s an unearthed piece of family history that transforms Isabel’s life.

Barcelona, 1936. Alicia Perez arrives in Barcelona after a difficult voyage from Cuba, her marriage in jeopardy and her young daughter Isabel in tow. Violence brews in Spain, the country on the brink of civil war, the rise of fascism threatening the world. When Cubans journey to Spain to join the International Brigades, Alicia’s past comes back to haunt her as she is unexpectedly reunited with the man who once held her heart.

Alicia and Isabel’s lives intertwine, and the past and present collide, as a mother and daughter are forced to choose between their family’s expectations and following their hearts. - from Goodreads

Chanel Cleeton is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine because of her Perez family series, and I'm excited to see what happens to the family in this next installment!