Book Review: The Frederick Sisters Are Living The Dream by Jeannie Zusy

Happy Thursdays!
Did anyone watch the Nintendo Direct from earlier this week? I actually cried at the announcement of the Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life remake. A childhood favorite brought to the present, sure makes the swellest present! Unfortunately, Alear’s god awful design in the newest Fire Emblem: Engage announcement, from the same Direct, has ruined the presentation for me. It’s just…that Colgate, Nintendo Switch colored hair. Just…why?? Fantastic art otherwise, not too sure about the animations, and not too keen on the unoriginal “yet another revived Fell Dragon in need of slaying” plot. Am I still getting it? For sure!

This week’s book that’s up for review: The Frederick Sisters Are Living The Dream by Jeannie Zusy. Thought to have been long overdue for a review, now that I have checked the publishing date, I actually made it on time for release! Phew!

Book Title: The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream: A Novel
Series: [Standalone]
Author: Jeannie Zusy
Length: 306 Pages (Paper) > Paperback ARC Edition
Publication Date: September 20th 2022
Publisher: Atria Books
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Family, Humor, Literary Fiction, Womens Fiction

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, via a Goodreads Giveaway, in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to Goodreads, the author, and Atria books for this copy! All opinions are my own.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Early Morning Riser with a dash of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this very funny, occasionally romantic, and surprisingly moving novel about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.

Every family has its fault lines, and when Maggie gets a call from the ER in Maryland where her older sister lives, the cracks start to appear. Ginny, her sugar-loving and diabetic older sister with intellectual disabilities, has overdosed on strawberry Jell-O.

Maggie knows Ginny really can’t live on her own, so she brings her sister and her occasionally vicious dog to live near her in upstate New York. Their other sister, Betsy, is against the idea but as a professional surfer, she is conveniently thousands of miles away.

Thus, Maggie’s life as a caretaker begins. It will take all of her dark humor and patience, already spread thin after a separation, raising two boys, freelancing, and starting a dating life, to deal with Ginny’s diapers, sugar addiction, porn habit, and refusal to cooperate. Add two devoted but feuding immigrant aides and a soon-to-be ex-husband who just won’t go away, and you’ve got a story that will leave you laughing through your tears as you wonder who is actually taking care of whom.

Oh, this was such a refreshing read that I thoroughly enjoyed!
Three sisters and all of the worries, self-doubts, and struggles between them. What’s on the surface is never “just the only things” that’s going on.

I struggled to get into and start the book because every time I cracked it open, there are no chapters but rather, four long parts. Stopping in the middle of a reading session was always awkward, but it wasn’t that much of a problem when you finally get into the book. Even if I didn’t like the way the book was divided, I fell in love with the intensity of the writing and the realism from every character. It felt like reading right off Maggie’s private journals, like listening to a friend tell me about her day, like being in her head and hearing and experiencing all of her worries. The writing is choppy in places but I loved most of everything else; the tension, the frustration, the thoughts of both Maggie and those around her, and of course all of their joys and mini celebrations too.

The story begins with Maggie driving Ginny back to live in New York, to be closer to her. It’s a trip from Maryland, somewhere Ginny will never see again and she doesn’t even know that yet. Virginia (Ginny) has an intellectual disability and despite living just fine on her own and away from her siblings, ever since she’s retired from her job, her life has gone downhill, her health in decline. She’s no longer able to take care of herself and her diabetes is not being properly managed, causing her to end up with sepsis and nearly dying. She doesn’t want to move, and oldest sister, Betsy (Bets), says that Maggie should just be allowed to live how she wants to live. If that means leaving her to her own devices and she dies from it…well…

So, against both her sisters’ wishes, Maggie brings Ginny closer to her, in upstate New York. Because what does Bets know? She’s off in California, surfing up her dream life and appearing on television!

This was a heartwarming read. I know it’s listed as humorous, but I felt kind of sad through the book. Sad for Ginny’s loss of freedom and loss of independence, something she’s had for decades. Sad for Bets and sad for Maggie and Ginny who know that something’s up with Bets to act so aloof and distant (physically and mentally), but we never know what and why. Sad for Maggie who is a bit neurotic and lonely but means well with all her heart. Sad for the kids and how the “divorce” affected them. But it was also refreshing because it shows the complex emotions and issues that make up a family: the relationship between the sisters, loneliness of the husband living separately but the kids also never being home, coming to terms about past mistakes and the growth, the bickering that stems from misunderstandings, the burnout, the drinking, the “am I really doing this for Ginny’s health or my own selfishness?”, the “When is it Maggie’s turn to be taken cared of?” Emotions are very strong here and I know I’ve cried a few times.

The characters here are wonderful, so well-developed, and again, as real as it gets. Bets is far away and acts like she doesn’t care that Ginny is no longer able to care for herself or the fact that she nearly died. She acts aloof, but from the beginning you know, through her brief encounters and calls, that something’s wrong on her end and nobody knows what until the end. Just as much as it affects Maggie, it too lingered in my mind from the very beginning, “What’s wrong with Bets? It’s bad, but we don’t know what and she won’t say anything.” Maggie always means the best, but at times she can be controlling and even intimidating in her “never wrong” attitude. She means well, but her work goes unappreciated on all ends. She knows that she can be controlling, but she also knows that the alternative is that the world falls apart: Bets will grow farther and farther away, Ginny could die, her sons could leave her for good.

Ginny struggles with her many losses too, from nearly dying to being torn from her own home, in Maryland, to first being put in a nursing home and then, against her will, put in a house that Maggie helped her find only to have a home-aide follow her everywhere and not let her do the things she enjoys (such as cutting back on a lot of sweets). She can’t even hold her own dog anymore and she loves Rascal!

Still, it’s not all sad and there are sprinkles here and there. I wouldn’t call it a depressing read nor would I call it a comedic one either. The best description may be, bittersweet with a hint of warm cinnamon. Life is hard with a rare treat in the middle. It’s a dark chocolate cupcake kind of bittersweet humor. Every character has their ups and good sides and their downs and flaws. As hard as things are, and as distant as the three sisters have become, the ending was relieving and as everyone comes back to some form of connection and a mutual understanding is made, you could almost feel the weights lifted from everyone’s shoulders, main and side characters alike. Bets tells Maggie of her own struggles, in both past and her current life, and Maggie sees Bets off on a warmer ground. Ginny begins to love New York and Maggie has something great to look forward to again.

It’s a hard read for sure, the tone, even with all the bits of humor thrown in, is still serious. Oftentimes, my heart clenches after an argument because I understand how hard the situation can be. It was a wonderful read and I enjoyed it enough to add it to my very small pile of books I would reread when I get a chance to.

Heart touching, heartwarming, heartbreaking. Special and loving.

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Book Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver


Book Title:
I Wish You All The Best
Author: Mason Deaver
Edition: Physical Copy > Paperback
Length: 336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Young Adult/YA

CW/TW: Verbal Abuse, Transphobia, Homophobia, Anxiety, Depression, Detailed Scenes of Anxiety. Detailed Scenes of Depressive Episodes, Body Dysmorphia, Underage Drinking and Alcohol, Being Kicked Out of House, Therapy, Misgendering, Slut-Shaming, Physical Child Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Panic Attacks

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

I only cried like 12 times, it’s fine.

I’ve read a few other LGBT books before, but this is the first time I read one about a non-binary character, and I learned a lot from reading this. Ben is a high school senior who has been struggling to find the right time to come out to their parents, the fear was making them sick with worry and now felt like the only moment left; they can’t bear to wait any longer. Eventually they do have a conversation with their parents, around New Year’s Eve, and it ends in them being kicked out of the house; no shoes and into the freezing thirty degrees night. Nowhere to go, they make their way to a pay phone and calls their sister, Hannah, whom they haven’t seen in a decade after she left the house immediately after graduation. Horrified and furious, at her parents, she takes Ben in to live with her and her husband, Thomas, where Ben begins their life again; new school, new clothes, new home, and new friends.

Simple, easy-to-read writing. Book gone in record time.

I inhaled this book in about a day and half. I think I could have finished it in a single sitting if I didn’t start so late at night on the first day. Wonderfully written with easy to understand prose, I was able to fly by the pages with not much problem. Having just finished a few fantasy books this year, you don’t know how much I’ve missed contemporary sentences that you don’t have to read three times to understand a scene or figure out the magic system. Just plain, to the point, passages. Along with a few text message exchanges and Facebook messages, this book makes for a nice epistolary novel as well, with its bit of mix media thrown in (and I always appreciate any novel with those!).

The book’s writing was fantastic, to the point where I could feel Ben’s emotions and feelings right through the pages. The fear of their first night out of the house, in the freezing cold with no shoes and only wet socks, sitting all alone in a pharmacy and waiting for Hannah. They have nothing on them besides their clothes and socks; no cell, no jacket, nothing. Alone and cold, fearful and so hurt by people they thought they could trust while waiting for a sister they haven’t seen in a literal decade, one whom they have to debate on whether to come out to, because this is probably their last chance. Who else is going to take them in if this too blows up? I was able to feel their every sadness, whenever they felt trapped, doubt, anger, cold, like a burden, angry, disappointed. That first panic attack was enough to steal your breath away as they hide in fear.

Friends that I would love to have around me.

The characters were wonderful and so colorful. I really enjoyed all of them, and there were plenty of characters. There’s Hannah and her husband, Thomas (who happens to be Ben’s chemistry teacher in their new school). There’s the other adults like Mrs. Liu, the art teacher, whom Ben becomes very close to and their therapist, Dr. Taylor, who helps Ben through their recent trauma. Of course, there’s Ben’s new friends, Sophie, Meleika, and the ever charming Nathan. Through the internet, they also have a friend named Mariam, a non-binary Muslim immigrant, a vlogger, and Ben’s mentor of sorts; They have been Ben’s biggest support in the past few years.

While I do enjoy the characters, I do feel like a few characters lacked a solid background, some just needing a little more screen time. We don’t know much about Sophie or Meleika. These are two people who become so important to Ben that the end of senior year becomes hard to imagine. Nathan is Ben’s love interest here and the person they hang with the most (how could you not hang with Nathan the sunflower-soul, golden retriever in a human body?) so we get to know more about him than many of the other characters and I feel like, screen time wise, even Mariam was more fleshed out than poor Sophie and Meleika. I did, however sparsely they were presented, felt myself attached to this small band of friends. Personality wise, I feel like they’re alright. I imagine loud, happy, and always inclusive of their quiet buddy, Ben, in their activities; friends that I would love to have around me.

It’s a lot to go through during your last half of your final year in high school…

Plot wise, I enjoyed it as well. Ben is struggling to understand, and put to words, not just the trauma of the night that they were kicked out, but their other emotions and feelings as well. They also struggle to see, initially refusing to see Dr. Taylor, because it would mean they would have to come out to another person when they aren’t ready yet. You have to remember, the first and last time they came out (other than to Mariam) ended disastrously! Through this book, Ben also learns to open up to others and makes friends by joining them at lunch, going to parties, texting people that isn’t just Mariam through the internet. Along with all this, they also have to come to terms with their feelings towards Hannah, one that is mostly grateful and loving but also betrayed and resentful of being abandoned by their sibling, leaving them to fend for themselves in a home with parents like theirs. All of this during his last few months of high school. It’s a lot to go through.

The romance and Ben’s crushing on Nathan was kind of cute. It’s a HEA book, and you kind of get the feeling just from reading the blurb. There’s plenty of powerful and heavy topics that this book tackles such as identity and orientation, body dysmorphia, the fear of coming out, making friends in a new place (especially so late into high school), being kicked out of the house, complicated family histories, child abuse, anxiety and depression, and much more. It’s heartfelt and the emotions just seep through the pages. There will be plenty of times you cry and then a few times you find yourself smiling for Ben (or because Nathan’s there, and he’s a good boy that makes everyone smile). The book also contrasts Ben’s god awful parents with some amazing adults (and friends!) that they can put their trust into, which is fantastic considering how much of that trust he’s lost in others since that awful night.

All in all

Overall, a lovely and cute read. I enjoyed the discussions and portrayals about mental health and mental illness. I thought the relationships in this book were cute, but also complex between certain characters, and the story was wonderful to read through, especially with Ben being surrounded by actual loving and accepting people. Plus, the cover is so cute (It may or may not have been the extra deciding factor that landed it in my basket)!

Book Review: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill by Sarah Jio

Book Title: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill
Author: Sarah Jio
Edition: NetGalley > Ebook
Length: ~336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Womens Fiction

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, suddenly fled to London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, Val is fresh out of a failed marriage and utterly disenchanted with life.

One day, Val receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to both her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the bookshop she opened twenty years ago. As Val jets across the Atlantic, she wonders – could this be her chance at a new beginning?

In London, Val finds herself falling in love with the pastel-coloured flat and the cosy, treasure-filled bookshop. When she stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, it’s the start of a scavenger hunt that will take her all over London and back in time… but most of all, bring her closer to the mother she lost twice.

Bittersweet and uplifting, The Bookshop on Primrose Hill will steal your heart. Perfect for fans of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Published in the US as With Love from London.

‘Look at the stars up there, fighting to be seen through all these city lights. It’s like a battle between two opposing forces: eternity versus modernity.’

I smiled up at him curiously. ‘Eternity for the win?’

‘Eternity always wins,’ he continued. ‘And that is the greatest comfort, isn’t it?’

I wasn’t entirely sure of his meaning, but I liked it, nonetheless. He gestured toward the city while I listened, enraptured.

‘Man built all that, invented it, created it. And as remarkable as it all is, the stars were here first.’ He took a deep breath. ‘They’re wiser.’

Can a mother-daughter duo, separated and estranged, connect once more when one of them is no longer around? Two generations and two people, who were once dear and close to each other, separated by oceans, misunderstandings, and hurt, are finally reunited in one last mother and daughter scavenger hunt as Val begins to go through this last gift from her mother to piece together all the history she has missed.

This book is told in two perspectives: one of Valentina’s in the present and one of her mother’s (Eloise) in the past. In the middle of a nasty divorce after her husband left her for another woman, Valentina ends up as the new owner of a bookshop in London, England, one that she inherits from her estranged mother, after her passing, and one she did not anticipate on holding onto. Her plans were to travel to England and just sell the store; after all, she holds no feelings or attachments to the place, neighborhood, or even her mother who had disappeared when she was twelve with not a single peep since then. It isn’t until she discovers her mother’s final gift to her, a scavenger hunt, that she begins to fall for the neighborhood and its people and get to know her mother, once more, through the lens of these neighbors.

I adored the writing in this book. It was the first thing I noticed. The characters were well written and had wonderful voices to their distinct personalities. I adored both the different time pieces, the past with Eloise and the present with Val and her own newfound friends. The interactions between the characters were great too, and the prose was beautiful. Easy to read and flowing really well, the writing was full of emotions through the entire read, enough to have me crying through a good chunk of it.

The pacing towards the beginning was a bit slow. Things are just starting to get a move on with Val realizing she may be staying here, in her mother’s old flat, for good, and she settles into both her new home/neighborhood and the puzzle that her mother leaves her. All the same, Eloise dives into the entire history behind Val’s father as well as her own first love. Things really take off towards the middle, where both the mother and daughter are going through their own major crises, but slightly different times so that one story is just a little more nerve wrecking than the other, and you want to hurry through the less anxious one, so that you can see what happens next; of course, it repeats later when we go through the other major conflict in the other storyline down the road.

There are some wonderful characters from both sides of the story, but more from Valentina’s as she meets a community of folks who knows her mother more and better than she has ever known. Through them, her opinion of the estranged Eloise would slowly change, and it’s such a wonderful neighborhood of beautiful people. All sorts of customers stop by to tell her of the difference that Eloise has played in their lives, such as a character (around Val’s age) who knew Eloise all the way back to when he was a child listening to her during story time events that she would host.

Despite the disconnect between Valentina and her mother, the two are still able to communicate, albeit a one-way connection and via letters. On one end, the reader gets to know Eloise better as she tells of her tale of how she fell in love and how Valentina came to be. On the other end is Valentina going about her usual days, while occasionally coming across new clues for the next letter location.

This was a lovely book and though it felt a bit slow for me in the beginning, most of the rest of the book had me running through with tears in my eyes. I knew that there was something major and way more to Eloise than just “the mother who took off on her husband and daughter, never to be heard from again.” The ending is very sweet, and I’m glad that many of the characters, including Valentina herself, seems to eventually find some form of peace. With Eloise’s tale being one of tragedy and Valentina’s almost like one of closure, I really enjoyed how the book finishes off, especially given the multiple obstacles both mother and daughter run into throughout the book. This is a heartwarming story about family, a mother’s love for her daughter, and about community. The neighborhood is so tight-knit that I almost envy Valentina and would love to just live on Primrose Hill myself.

A very touching read, Sarah Jio is a new author to me, and I’m eager to read more. Her writing is beautiful, her characters warm, and the story engaging. I really enjoyed this book and if you love family books with a bit of romance and mystery (a scavenger hunt), this may be a good book for you to curl up to.

Book Review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s the start of the month, meaning work is on 🔥with deadlines, but hey! The week is going by unforgiving fast! Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, though.

It’s time for this week’s review and today, we’ll be featuring The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse!

Book Title: The Coordinates of Loss
Author: Amanda Prowse
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Length: 317 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Family

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.

In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.

Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

I’ve only read one book by Amanda Prowse, so far, and it had me sobbing through the entire book. I’m talking about crying nearly every single chapter. And so, having this one previous experience with the author and having read the blurb, I knew I needed to prepare my box of tissues and boy, I wasn’t wrong.

Rachel and James had it all. Both having moved from Bristol, a few years back, they were now in paradise; the blue seas and sandy beaches of Bermuda now their home. The couple adored each other and they had Oscar, their little seven-year-old son. What more could you have hoped for?

The story begins at sea, Rachel having woken up next to her beloved husband, enjoying their wonderful life. It wasn’t until she goes to wake Oscar, who, being an early riser, was strangely late and missing. When she peers into her son’s cabin, Rachel realizes he’s not there…or anywhere else on the boat for that matter. In seconds, their paradise crumbles, their happiness lost forever.

This book was terribly sad. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and the grief that follows just envelopes everyone, especially Rachel. So lost in the fog that follows, she can see no future, and eventually heads back home to Bristol to stay awhile with her family. To remain in Bermuda would have brought her pain with each waking day and along with grief, there’s blame and anger between James and Rachel. Neither can forgive each other nor themselves, and so mutually agreed that some time apart may be the only thing left that can help them move forward.

While in Bristol, she begins to receive letters from her housekeeper, Cee-Cee, who is cherished deeply by the family and who also loved Oscar with all her heart. Her letters were a way to help comfort Rachel, telling her stories of her past and of how she went through her own journey with grief after losing her own baby, at seven weeks old, five decades earlier. Here, Rachel begins to learn how to move forward and, along with the help from these letters, she also is supported by her parents, her best friend, and even a group of strangers turned friends at a lovely small café.

This recovery, on both ends, is not easy and by no means is it going to be short. It’s a lifetime of healing and this entire book essentially is their way of learning how to be whole again after losing a major piece of themselves. The story is horribly sad, and I have cried just feeling the raw emotions and screams from Rachel every time she remembers that her little Oscar is no longer going to come back. There is denial at first, and it’s the moment when denial turns to acceptance that hit me the hardest and was the most heartbreaking, but also the beginning of Rachel and Jame’s healing journey.

An amazing book that I simply inhaled my way through, the only thing I didn’t love was that I couldn’t seem to connect with many of the characters, especially the main three that the book revolved around (Rachel, James, and Oscar). I didn’t get to know Oscar outside of two or three memory lines, though those lines were written beautifully; to have Rachel glance at a certain object and getting that flash of a moment back with her baby boy was so realistic. I think, through her letters and stories about her past and her own grief of losing her child, I got to know Cee-Cee more than I got to know Rachel and James. It was also heartbreaking to watch their relationship crumble under them, each grieving their son differently and unable to connect or communicate with each other.

Told in two POVs, Rachel’s and Cee-Cee (and her letters), this was an extremely emotional book that was well-paced, not too quick nor did it drag, that was beautifully written. Despite feeling a bit far-away from some of the characters, in the end, I did love all of them. There are family, friends, and even strangers that have come to offer their own love and support to the family and it’s beautiful.

Book Review: #Rejected Goddesses by Natalie Watson and Nina Holmes

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
I wish all my workweeks were 4 days long! It’s already Thursday!

Title: #Rejected Goddesses
Author: Natalie Watson and Nina Holmes
Edition: Ebook
Length: 148 Pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Romance, Humor, Contemporary
Disclaimer: Thank you to the authors for sending me an e-copy of this book as part of a giveaway! This does not affect my opinion, and all thoughts are mine.

“Every woman is a rejected goddess at some point in her life … but it’s okay to be rejected as long as you feel like a Goddess.”— Robyn Ryan and Cat Romano.

I’m Robyn Ryan.
I’m thirtyish and I’m a third-generation caffeinated Irish. I’m a journalist turned baker on the verge of bankruptcy. I’m a mommy to a dog with a huge attitude.
My personal life sucks.

I’m Catarina Romano, shortly Cat.
I’m thirtyish and I’m a third-generation fiery-tempered Italian with a nuclear explosive and overprotective family.
I’m a notorious male-basher. No wonder I’m single.
I’m also an author of the worstseller “Italian Connections.”

We are two best friends in a temporary rut of our lives in Mystic Oak, MA.

Can our ginormous dreams come true in the smallest town on earth?

This was such a light-hearted and funny rom-com! I quite enjoyed it, especially given some of the pretty gruesome crime fictions and serious nonfictions that I’ve been reading lately. There wasn’t really a moment that had me gasping, or left me at the edge of my seat. Through the entire read, #Rejected Goddesses gave the kind of warm feeling where you know that, at no point in the book, are our main characters ever going to be in a major and serious tussle or danger. Our protagonists may be some mishaps, some big, some small, but there’s always someone to help pick them back up again.

Robyn (Rob) and Catarina (Cat) are two best friends in their thirties, living a somewhat messy and chaotic life. Robyn is a journalist turned baker, after inheriting her grandmother’s bakery, and tries to make the best of her new life, running this business with a French baker and an assistant. She’s trying her best to keep her head above the water, but things aren’t looking too good at this point. Her best friend, Cat, has quite the overprotective family, which is both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on the situation. She hates her new boss. He’s too stiff, already has demoted her to a personal assistant from her previous job in the marketing department (as a way to keep her around rather than let her go completely), and in no way comparable to the sweet gentleman that is his father, Mr. Bentley, her previous boss before having stepped down to turn the business over to his sons. There’s absolutely NO way she’s in love with this dickhead. The jokes and funny, graphic, and erotic texts between Robyn and Cat, though, sure say the opposite. Perhaps there’s some deeply hidden feelings that are a-brew, after all?

Told in two POVs, Cat’s and Robyn’s, this is a lovely and fast read that revolves around friendship, plenty of fun romance, family, and the power of two strong women as they try to tackle the storm of complications and issues that seem to continuously bombard the pair. If there’s nowhere else to turn, their lives full of challenges with men and co-workers/bosses alike, they know that they can always turn back to family and each other. There’s always some way to push forward.

I adore all of the characters in this book, outside of the two antagonistic people in both of their lives. For the supporting cast, you have an array of colorful people: There’s the misunderstood Richard, Cat’s new boss. There’s Nick, the hot Brad Pitt lookalike of a vet. There’s Tonio, Cat’s overprotective brother who she swears isn’t part of the mob (We may never know if it’s all truly “just an act”), and has, more than once, come with fists flying to her aid. There’s her Nonna who always knows how to best comfort the two when they’re down, be it with food or words, and actually runs the Italian place next to Robyn’s bakery. And in Robyn’s bakery, she’s got her assistant, Lucy, and the French baker who, despite Robyn constantly being annoyed by his “French connoisseur persona” is actually quite the baker.

Then, of course, there’s Cat and Robyn themselves. Both are funny women who have had some shit go their way in life. Having faced misogyny at the work place, awful ex-boyfriends, and now barely keeping up with their office and bakery life; the two are constantly there to cheer each other up. I love their text exchanges with each other as well. They’re the perfect combination of a serious natured person and her firecracker, wild friend.

All in all, this was a pretty hilarious and fast read. The novella makes for a good book to curl up with and has an easy feeling and flow to it that’ll keep you turning pages. I’m not one to read romance often, but this one certainly did put a smile to my face. Hell, I even had a few moments where I’d bursted out laughing!

Book Review: Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

It’s Thursday and today, I turn 26 🥳 In this week’s post, we’re reviewing Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde! I stumbled on this during a random NetGalley scrolling spree and I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d walked away with a treasure in hand!

Book Description

Title: Dreaming of Flight
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Edition: NetGalley > Ebook
Length: ~304 Pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Contemporary, Family
Rating: 5 Golden Eggs

Disclaimer: An eBook copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This did not affect my review, and all opinions are mine.

Blurb (Goodreads)

An unexpected connection becomes the saving grace for two unlikely friends in a heart-stirring novel about love, loss, and moving forward by a New York Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author.

Never knowing his parents, eleven-year-old Stewie Little and his brother have been raised on a farm by their older sister. Stewie steadfastly tends the chickens left by his beloved late grandmother. And every day Stewie goes door to door selling fresh eggs from his wagon—a routine with a surprise just around the corner. It’s his new customer, Marilyn. She’s prickly and guarded, yet comfortably familiar—she reminds the grieving Stewie so much of the grandmother he misses more than he can express.

Marilyn has a reason for keeping her distance: a secret no one knows about. Her survival tactic is to draw a line between herself and other people—one that Stewie is determined to cross. As their visits become more frequent, a complicated but deeply rooted relationship grows. That’s when Stewie discovers how much more there is to Marilyn, to her past, and to challenges that become more pressing each day. But whatever difficult times lie ahead, Stewie learns that although he can’t fix everything for Marilyn or himself, at least he’s no longer alone.

Review

This was such a beautiful book. I smiled and I cried. By the time the book ended, it truly blew me away with the amount of emotions that it left me; warmth with heartbreak followed by healing. I didn’t exactly read the blurb going in nor have I ever read any other book by this author, but I may have discovered another new treasure to add to my ever-growing list of auto-buy authors!

This story revolves around an 11 year old, Stewie Little, a boy who has never known his parents and had been raised by his grandmother with his older brother and sister on a farm, that is until his grandmother, “Gam”, passed away a little while back. Stewie is what some may call a “Highly Sensitive Person” someone who feels things very deeply. As someone who is an HSP, I was immediately floored. I’ve never read a book that has described how I felt so well; happiness is elation, bad things hit hard. Sometimes bad things hit really REALLY hard.

The story is themed around Stewie’s sensitive nature, his struggles with his recent losses, and wanting to fix things wherever he goes. After school, he sells eggs in his neighborhood as a way to both justify not selling Gam’s hens and to help Stacey (his older sister who works night shift) to pay the bills. Just by chance, a few people aren’t home during his usual egg route. It’s at this time, he ventures just a little further to houses he’s never visited and meets Marilyn, a not so nice person, but not unkind either. She’s someone just like his grandmother and it’s the beginning of new friendship. Marilyn continues to be prickly, but with Stewie’s persistence, even she begins to warm up to him.

This book is wonderfully written, full of insightful moments, and is a great coming-of-age read that discusses grief, loss, and death. There are plenty of things that Stewie either learns to overcome or accept in this story, including that everyone has problems, but sometimes you may not be able to help them solve it. With the help of his new-found friend (and later, many other new friends), his sister and brother, and from a wise and very curious psychologist, Stewie begins to see a new side to life and to accept help when it’s offered.

There are a lot of characters in this story and I love most of them, especially the psychologist. Besides grief, there are other themes that this book discusses, including emotions and learning to express them, family, life and aging, death of a loved one, memory loss, as well as the feeling of lost freedom that comes with aging, elder care, nursing homes, bullying, and other important points.

The story was beautiful and heartbreaking, the characters were loving and realistic, and there were so many moments and discussions that were insightful and leaves you thinking. A fantastic read that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon, I’ll be back to check other books by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Quotes

“’I just wish you didn’t take everything so hard. For your own sake, I mean. Sometimes I wish I could wave a magic wand over you and fix it so you didn’t have to care about everything so deeply.’

‘What’s wrong with caring?’

‘Nothing’s wrong with it. The thing about caring is you want to have some. You want to care, but in the right measure. Not too little and not too much. If you care too much, then something like this happens and it just makes you so sad.’

‘But then good things happen and they make me extra happy. Besides. If you waved a magic wand over me and made me different, then I wouldn’t be me.’

“‘The reason people are unhappy is because they’re so sure they know what they want. And then it makes them unhappy when they don’t get it. I personally think people would be happier if they weren’t so sure they knew the difference between a good thing and a bad thing.’”

“‘You just have to let them know you’re listening. That you want to hear what they want to say. If they know somebody cares how they feel, they’ll let you know.'”

Book Review: Sisters Behaving Badly by Maddie Please

*Gasp* I finally got to this book!
My NetGalley ratio has been sitting there staring at me, accusingly, and it’ll finally get a nudge upwards. What a March miracle!

Book Description

Title: Sisters Behaving Badly
Author: Maddie Please
Edition: NetGalley > Ebook
Length: ~333 Pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Womens Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Family
Rating: 4½ Golden Eggs

TW/CW: Gaslighting & Emotionally Abusive Spouse

Disclaimer: An eBook copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This did not affect my review, and all opinions are mine.

Blurb (Goodreads)

Sisters Kitty and Jenny haven’t spoken since a very disappointing Carvery lunch. Kitty, sixty-two, thinks Jenny is turning grey. Jenny, sixty-six, thinks Kitty needs to grow up!

So when both sisters inherit a farmhouse in rural France, it gives them the perfect chance to heal the rift between them. Except the farmhouse is a wreck, the garden is terrorized by a flock of chickens, not to mention a donkey with a serious flatulence problem!

Kitty is determined to enjoy herself, especially when she meets gorgeous French builder, Leo. Ooh la – la! And Jenny finds the fully stocked wine cellar helps enormously with missing horrible husband Paul – hic!

And as the two sisters begin to repair their fragile friendship, they discover that being bad is actually very good for the soul.

Review

I picked this book up simply because of the yellow covers, not knowing what to expect other than the fact that the story revolved around two estranged sisters trying to reconnect. It turned out to be a surprisingly delightful read, sprinkled with the occasional rising blood pressure moments or tears dotting my vision.

Sisters, Katherine (Kitty) and Jenny are two ladies, in their early and mid-sixties, from England who are estranged from one another. Having grown up close and best of friends, time, particular people, and their ideals and beliefs have caused a rift to grown between the two of them and a major fight seemed to have sealed the deal. Kitty fears, their friendship was finally over and there would be no saving it. It’s been years since she’s seen her sister.

But, their aunty, Sheila, seemed to have different plans and upon her passing, the two sisters inherit her house in rural France, albeit in dire need of renovation before either could even consider selling it. With a planned renovation as the official excuse to take an extended trip, this could be just the thing they need! Together again, Kitty hopes this is their chance to finally reconnect with each other and heal the pain between them.

I thought this book was a lovely read! Except for the occasional fight, some small and some friendship shatteringly massive, for most of the book, the two exchanged a lot of pleasant moments; going shopping together, talking about their relationships, deciding on some interior decorating for the renovation, and most importantly, discussing their hurt and fallen-apart relationships from the last few years, a chance to actually talk things out.

Much of the problem, between Jenny and Kitty, stem from Jenny’s overwhelmingly stifling and horrible husband, Paul, to which Jenny herself has not come to realize so. Controlling in every corner of her life, the man has even managed to cause their son to move far and never return. An awful and vile man who, on the surface is a “lovely and decent” person (at least according to Jenny) it’s not until she spends more time with Kitty, learning to live again and seeing just how happy she is (without Paul!), that it dawns on her just how terrible the man was to her, in the last thirty years.; just how negative he’s impacted her life without her even realizing it.

The entire beginning was so frustrating because everything Kitty wanted her to do, she’d reply with how she “would NEVER” and always followed by “because Paul says—.” She doesn’t cook because her husband doesn’t like food being prepared in the house, no gravy because it’s fat, doesn’t allow Jenny to do any of the decorating around the house,decaf coffee ONLY, and she hasn’t had lasagna, her favorite food, for years because of Paul.

“She nodded. ‘The last time I had it we were in Oxford; it was my birthday, and we went to a wine bar for lunch as a treat. And it was nothing special, but I think it was the last really hot, really tasty thing I ate. You know what Paul is like; he hides the saltshaker and is always keeping an eye on preservatives and carbs and good fats, whatever they are.”

She can’t even mention her beloved son’s name in the house, since her husband essentially drove him away! Talk about an arsehole!

‘I was hoping with time Paul would relent but he never did. And if I mentioned Ace, Paul would pull a face and give me the silent treatment. He didn’t speak to me for a month once.’

By a quarter of the way through, I was already seething with hatred for this man. Everything’s about him, how he likes or dislikes things, what she can do, what she can’t do, and there was even a moment when he sat at a table with Jenny and Kitty, where Kitty kept talking and asking Jenny for her opinions only for him to speak for her. I’ve never wanted to chuck a person into a volcano as much as Paul.

Besides Jenny’s marriage, Kitty herself needs lots of love too; having married and divorced three times; all pretty awful people themselves. She hasn’t had much luck with men and during the renovation, encounters one of the contractors, hired by Sheila prior to her death, whom she connects deeply to. Just as Jenny discovers and opens her eyes to her own marriage, Kitty discovers love again too.

All in all, I thought this was a very lovely read that themed around family, sisters, reconnections and healing; two people that have gone through horrible relationships beginning to rediscover themselves and love again. Watching Jenny blossom from the person she was, at the beginning of the book, to the end was beautiful and seeing Kitty thoroughly enjoy herself on this trip was just as amazing.

The pair, mostly Kitty, also get to know Sheila’s neighbors and village, where the late-artist was greatly loved by the people, as well as getting to live in rural France, slowly falling in love with this new country. There’s even chickens (aka tiny velociraptors), kittens, and a donkey involved!

Favorite Quotes

‘It’s true. I read it in the papers. Imagine if those hens were four times the size. They would be like those things in Jurassic Park. Veliocraptors.’
‘I think you mean velociraptors,’ Jenny said with a shaky laugh.

Perhaps she was right; perhaps I hadn’t worried enough about the three men I had married. But what good would that have done in the long run? Had any one of them worried about me and my happiness?

Being here could be a really positive change for both of us. New challenges, new possibilities and something I’d never thought would happen again: time on my own with Jenny. I raised my glass towards the cobwebs on the ceiling.

4½ Shiny Shiny Eggs

The Family Journal [Review]

Book Name: The Family Journal
Series: [Standalone] Book N/A
Author: Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 296
Genre: Romance, Fiction, Contemporary
Start Date: 07.02.2020
End Date: 07.08.2020
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is Carolyn Brown’s 100th book! Whopping 100! That’s amazing! Congratulations to Carolyn 🥳

Goodreads Summary

Link to Book’s Goodreads Page: >HERE<

At the end of her rope, single mom Lily Anderson is determined to move her rebellious children in the right direction. That means taking away their cell phones, tablets, and computers—at least temporarily—and moving to the house where Lily grew up in the rural town of Comfort, Texas. But Lily has a bigger challenge than two sulking teens.

The house comes with Mack Cooper, high school teacher and handsome longtime renter. The arrangement: just housemates. But Mack’s devoted attention to the kids starts to warm Lily’s resistant heart. Then Lily finds an old leather-bound book in which five generations of her female ancestors shared their struggles and dreams. To Lily, it’s a bracing reminder about the importance of family…and love.

Now it’s time for Lily to add an adventurous new chapter to the cherished family journal—by embracing a fresh start and taking a chance on a man who could make her house a home.

review

I usually don’t go for romance books, but I only realized it was romance after I’d purchased the book; a big oops on my part…There was implied sexual content of course, but nothing more than a good kiss on the cheeks or lips was actually written out for the readers to read. For that, I was so very glad. However, it was my fault for not reading properly about the genre and so I just stuck with it. How bad could it be? (Turned out to be a pretty good book that I semi-flew through).

Lily is a mother who has been divorced for a good few years now; her husband having admitted to cheating on her and leaving for a much richer woman, leaving her with her two kids, Holly and Braden. When she discovers fourteen year old Holly with weed and twelve year old Braden with alcohol, she’s decided that enough was enough and decided to move the three of them back to her childhood home in Comfort, Texas, a small community with a population of a little more than three thousand. Along with the move, she confiscates her kids’ electronics…all of them; computers, tablets, phones…

Holding steadfast to her resolve in making a change in her family, she continues with the move as her kids try to negotiate anything to keep them in the city. Nothing was going to make her budge on her decision, not this time. In the years after her divorce, she had began to drown herself in her work and left no time to her children. The combined effects of both the lack of proper family time and the divorce resulted in causing her children to drift apart and become rebellious. This time, she knew that she needed to make a change, and her decision better be solid; no puppy eyes would be changing her mind.

The house that she grew up in comes with Mack Cooper, someone she knew back in her own school days, now her tenant; a school teacher himself with forty goats living in the yard. The arrangement was to remain as friendly associates, a roommate relationship. He gets to keep living in a home that allows him to raise his goats, and she gets to use her house again. They will share the living room and kitchen only when they needed the use of them. With the agreement solid, Lily moves the family back home to get away from the influences of the city.

Thoughts

If I had to describe the book in one word it would be fluffy (heartwarming too). There were ups and downs and the book writes out to be incredibly predictable, but I enjoyed it. There were parts that made me tear up and once the water-work starts going, there’s no turning back. Mack and Lily just fits each other like the perfect puzzle piece. They’re compatible, there’s chemistry between them, each have personal trust issues that stem from the trauma of having to deal with specific people in their lives, and each have baggage they carry.

Lily doesn’t trust herself in another relationship because what if another man like her cheating ex-husband comes by and ruins the little trust and hope she had left? Someone close to Mack had stolen his previous girlfriends not once, but twice! He’s adamant in not getting himself into another relationship, just like Lily, because what’s the point if that someone is going to just stroll back in and steal his girlfriend with his charms and good looks…again!

But as they begin to live under and share the same roof, Lily and Mack begin to gravitate towards each other. Mack, being a vo-ag (vocational agriculture) teacher, is fantastic with Lily’s kids and bonds with her son, who has grown quite attached to the herd of goats outside. While her daughter is a bit more to handle, even Holly begins to settle in to the new rural lifestyle with new friends of her own and even gets along well with Lily’s childhood friends.

The house that Lily resides in now is her childhood home that once belonged to her mother, now deceased. When she finally has the courage to start going through her mother’s things, she finds an old journal that, to her surprise, belongs to the women in her family…spanning across many many years with the first entry starting in June 1862!

With the journal, Lily begins a journey of love and the importance of family. Through the ancient book, she begins to find parallels to her current life as she shares the struggles, hardships, happiness, and even dreams of her ancestors. As she discovers more about herself, she begins to share the journal with her daughter, whom she would love to pass the journal onto one day, and the two’s relationship begins to heal.

It’s a heartwarming story that makes you cry a little. Her kids are at a rebellious stage in their lives and the divorce only catapulted them further away from her; their words constantly laced with anger or I should’ve tried harder to convince dad to move in with him and the likes of such. But with the introduction of the journal, she begins to bond closer to her children, and with Mack, both their hearts begin to thaw as they learn to work through their past problems and learn to love again.

The book is very Christian centric, as well, with many of the scenes taking place at church or mentions of choir practice and Sunday schools. Macks’ old friend is the preacher of this tiny town’s church and it’s these weekends, Sundays especially, whose scenes are the primary focus with most of the weekdays somewhat zipping by (could be me though).

It’s a very sweet book with lots of sparks flying at every touch they make, accident or not. The “good” characters are all like-able and the “villains” are all very detestable. I enjoyed how everybody seems to have their own comfort groups that mingle well with each other, small town style. Mack knows of the old aloof woman at church, as does Lily and her friends. Holly occasionally gets to hang out with her mother’s friends and gets to hang out with that old woman as well. Everyone knows everyone (and everyone knows secrets in half a heart beat). There’s a sense of eye-rolling small town rumors that is always flying around, though most are generally harmless.

All in all, it’s a very sweet and heartwarming book. I loved the parts where Lily and Mack helped each other through their pasts, even before their relationship began to kindle (did you see what I did there 👀?). Mack is the fantastic father figure that Holly and Braden just needed in their lives. Even from the start, you get a feeling that they were all just meant to be together.

I didn’t expect to power through the book as fast as I did. It flows well and reads well; an exceptional page-turning book. I had read pieces of the first few chapters during work breaks and after work, but then managed to just blow through a good 200 pages in one go as the middle began to pick up.

Lovely read with a beautiful ending: 4⭐️

Currently Reading [07.05.2020]

I was ordering something from Amazon a few days ago and finally decided to try out this Amazon Prime thing that the site kept nagging me about. Lo and behold it comes with reading benefits, though different than the Kindle Unlimited that I also see all over the site.

I ended up with two new books on my Kindle (one of which included audio which I didn’t realize until I fired up my phone Kindle app). With the book mail that I received a few days ago, this month I have three TBR/Currently Reading books and I hope that I could complete at least one of them during today’s long car ride. Seeing as I easily get “see-sick” the audio book should come quite in handy!

The Family Journal

The Family Journal
Book Cover from Goodreads.

Book Name: The Family Journal
Series: [Standalone] Book N/A
Author: Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 296
Genre: Romance, Fiction, Contemporary
Start Date: 07.02.2020
End Date: 07.08.2020

I didn’t realize that this was a romance when I first picked it up. All I got from the summary was how fed up a newly divorced single mother is with her teenage kids and that she needed to move back to her childhood home where she can spend more quality time with her children, hoping to improve their behavior. Somewhere between “aww family bonding” and Lily (the mother) finding an old family journal, I managed to miss the line, “The house comes with Mack Cooper, high school teacher and handsome longtime renter.” It has been a long time since I’ve read a romance as it’s my least favorite genre [of all time]. However, so far, it’s not so bad so far. I’m hoping to enjoy the book as the blurb sounded interesting enough and it’s pretty short read.

An Invisible Client

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Book Cover from Goodreads.

Book Name: An Invisible Client
Series: [Standalone] Book # N/A
Author: Victor Methos
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Comes with audio)
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Legal Thriller
Start Date: 07.02.2020
End Date: 07.12.2020

I was scrolling through the Amazon “Read Now for Free” list that came with Amazon Prime (called Prime Reading) and came across this one before I even saw “The Family Journal.” It sounded interesting enough and I can’t recall ever having read any legal thrillers before (though I have watched legal dramas before namely “Suits”). Being even shorter than “The Family Journal,” I’m hoping this will be a fun and quick read. The biggest surprise, though, was that when I went to open the Kindle book, there was an audio option. I’ll be listening to this on the road during today’s car trip.

The Eye of the World

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Book Cover from Goodreads
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Most of the Mass Market Books I’ve seen had the [left] cover, but mine came having the Kindle edition [light blue above] cover art instead

Book Name: The Eye of the World
Series: The Wheel of Time Book # 1
Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: TOR Books
Book Type: Physical > Paperback > Mass Market
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 814
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Fantasy > Epic Fantasy, Fantasy > High Fantasy
Start Date: 07.04.2020
End Date: Currently Reading

I spent the better part of the last week deciding on what book I should get more as my first book mail [in a long time]. I was on a book mail self-ban because I couldn’t stand having to move all those books when we move houses…but…I really really missed having book mail…

The decision was between “The Thousand Names,” “The Way of Kings,” or “The Eye of The World.” I spent 90% of the time flipping between the two series latter series and ended up with “The Eye of the World.” I heard so much about this book, have passed it in bookstores several times, and have yet to actually pick it up. The deciding factor to try it out came after I finished writing my Tacticians Inspired TBR post a little while back and now…it’s arrived. It’s here. In my hands. It’s so cute…like a little blue brick :’) Out of the three, I’m most excited to dig into this one.

The Day She Came Back [Book Review]

Book Name: The Day She Came Back
Series: Standalone Book #: N/A
Author: Amanda Prowse
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Expected Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Doc) > ARC
Obtained: “Read Now” on Netgalley
Pages: 306
Genre: Fiction > Women’s Fiction
Start Date: 05.20.2020
End Date: 05.31.2020

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy of this book [NetGalley] in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are of my own.
Content Warning: This book has mentions of death, drug use and addiction, and implied/mentions of sex.

Summary [Source: Goodreads]

Link to Goodreads Page: >HERE<

When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible? 

Summary Review:

Thoughts

Oh phew. It’s over. So where do I even begin with this book?

First thing first. I cried 18 times. I counted. I’m very serious. I cried multiple times in the first chapter and then I cried again finishing this book off. And of course, I cried throughout the entire book.

This is my first NetGalley book. I was seeing a bunch of NetGalley posts floating around book Twitter that I just needed to try it. Seeing as I started out with a feedback ratio of 0%, I figured to look for a “read now” book first (I’m pretty sure my requests wouldn’t have been approved anyways 😂 )

What Attracted Me / Expanded Plot

I was going through NetGalley and honestly (having no Currently Reading books for days) I was getting antsy and ready to pick anything up. However, I didn’t want to force my way into a book that I would potentially hate just for a free read…and eventually came across this book (as someone whose favorite colors are yellow and orange I’m pretty sure the lure was the bright yellow covers.

I mostly picked this one up because of the other feedbacks left behind on the site. Literally just that. Sure, the cover was pretty cute (lovely sunflower colors shaded by the lonely feeling of an empty chair: presumably Prim’s favorite chair), the title intriguing, and the summary drawing me in, but the cherry on top were the other feedbacks. “Beautifully written story” was listed in almost every review. And when your favorite books are murder crime thrillers, you don’t get much of a chance for “beautiful story.”

This story is about a young woman in England (The town of Epsom in Surrey, England to be exact). 18 year old Victoria goes out with her friend for a day out and returns in the afternoon to see that her grandmother has passed away, sitting in her favorite place, the Garden Room and her whole world is turned upside down. Primrose, Prim, is Victoria’s only remaining family, having lost her father, before she was even born, and her mother, shortly afterwards, both to drugs. Victoria has never met either of them.

Her next few days, she spends broken and numb, with no clue what to do next. She was young adult, new to the world, and not yet ready to go through the process of losing Prim; the lawyers, the funeral, things like what to do with the house now that she was a “young woman of means.” She knew that this day would eventually come, but not so soon…It’s an overwhelming feeling, and Amanda makes you feel that through the page.

Daksha, Victoria’s best friend, is there to comfort and be with her through this immensely tough time and eventually, the long dreaded day of Prim’s funeral arrives. It is after the funeral that Victoria meets a woman who claims to be Victoria’s mother. Having her world shattered with the loss of Prim, she’s not ready to deal with this revelation. Here, before her, was the woman that she thought, that she had been told her whole life, to be dead, very much alive. Every holiday and every birthday that she has ever spent, missing and mourning the woman she never met, Victoria feels nothing but betrayed to, lied to, and deceived; her whole life an utter lie by those she was closest too.

Naturally, she is skeptical at first, but Victoria gives this strange woman a chance. Knowing that if she were to refuse to accept what the woman says, she may forever regret it. She wanted the truth, to get to the bottom of this, and to do that, she would have to give the woman a try.

Expanded Review

This book is, as the others say, an amazing and beautifully written story. This is the story of three women. It is the story of Victoria and the two generations of women who created, cared, and loved her deeply. It is the story of tremendous sacrifice and heartbreak; A desperate mother who watched her daughter succumb to the disease of drug addiction, unable to tear her free from its grasp, and another mother who had to forfeit her daughter, even as her soul cried in agony of the separation, because she knew it would have given her the best chance at a healthy and happy life, not like of her own.

This is the first time I’ve read an Amanda Prowse book. It’s the first time in a long time that I picked up a non-thriller or fantasy book. It’s a book that talks about things that are just too hard to voice and things that nobody wants to talk about. I’ve read death. Trust me, mystery thrillers mean there are plenty of death (and in the most gruesome ways). Those authors, in their own way, portray those deaths in as horrifying of a visual as it can get, and yet this is new to me.

Prim’s death was the reason I couldn’t move on in this book for a good two days. Her death, Victoria’s nightmare, is everyone’s nightmare. Having returned from a great afternoon out and having bumped into the boy of her dreams, she comes home in great spirits. In vivid details, we watch as her life is shattered into pieces. How Victoria finds her grandmother’s body shook me hard. Because it’s just so real. It is utterly and terrifyingly real. To come home from an ordinary day, to find your loved one gone. Blue tinged lips…lifeless eyes and cold body…ears that no longer listen as you plead for them to return. To walk out promising your grandmother you’d bring back snacks only to return knowing she never was able to take that one last bite, wondering if you’d had completed that quick task for them before rushing out the door. None of their cooking ever again. None of the small things like their smell, the noise of them walking around the house. It’s shocking. It’s overwhelming. For Victoria and for the reader.

We all have that loved one, be it family or friend, that we know we will eventually lose. We don’t know when…we don’t know how and it’s something that we try to push off to the back of our minds. I think I spent a good day staring at my own parents. Death is inevitable. It will always be there, the promised end. You realize there is a very real possibility that one day you might be the one to discover your deceased loved one’s body. It just never hit me on how it would happen.

The rest of the book was stellar and amazing, but it was that first chapter that was just…extra hard for me to get over. It really shook me and reminded me of things I simply never wanted to think about, and Amanda does a brilliant job in portraying the same exact thoughts in our main character here. Being that it was her grandmother who raised her, she realized this day was bound to come, but for her and for Prim, it came just too soon.

The book was phenomenal and tackled many different topics. It discusses loss of a love one, self-confidence and insecurities and being deceived, living what feels like a lie and having what you’ve only known, ever, come unraveling around you…You read about drugs, the effects of heroin and addiction… there are tears, there is love…so so much love. We watch Victoria learn to forgive, learn to discover themselves, to heal, forge friendships and relationships, in rediscovering betrayal, and learning to move on. We watch the love between best friends, who are there for you through thick and thin, and the sacrifices of a beautiful family to make sure an innocent little girl grows up to be loved, happy, and healthy.

And as Victoria gets to know the mum she never got a chance to meet, she grows so much as a person. From what feels like the inability to trust ever again to someone who is able to forgive and give second chances. With the help of many wonderful people, she pushes through past the grief of loss and being lied to to get to know her mother. Even if it’s at an arms distance, they share tears and slowly begin to connect through the nostalgic bridge that each experience on their own to meet at the middle and eventually move on to walk together.

This was an amazing and beautifully written book. I can’t argue with that. I cried so many times throughout this book. Amanda’s writing is just…beautiful. Enchanting? She picks words that crafts and embeds magic woven into each sentence, bringing the story to life. You feel the loss that Victoria experiences. Her tears, her fears, her being overwhelmed at being suddenly thrust into unfamiliar surroundings. Amanda makes it so that you experience loneliness. The first days alone in the house without Prim…the cold emptiness of the hallways, being in a large house all alone. The first time Victoria tries to turn around to her beloved granny for help or a shoulder to lean on and finding nothing but spirits and memories.

An absolutely beautiful story 5 / 5.