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: 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

Retro Thursday: See You At Harry’s Review

I’ve only had Cozy with Books for a little over a year but I’ve read many books before that and soooo…

Retro Thursday is where I go back to all the books I read prior to my blog and do a review…retrospectively!

Title: See You At Harry’s
Authors: Jo Knowles
Length: 320
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Obtained: School Book Fair

Blurb

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

Review

A part of me thought that doing this review is kind of hard because when I read this it was probably back in 2014…for goodness sakes, it was so old, I had obtained this book at the high school book fair! I’ve gone and graduated college for a good few years now! And yet…the emotions I felt in this book are still so raw and so real. I still remember the overall plot. I still remember the empty and aching feeling in my chest. This book was one of the first books that made me bawl my eyes out (as discreetly as I could because I was at school!) I picked it up during a lunch break and was done by the time the final school bell rang, but not before annihilate many boxes of tissues.

The characters and the grief felt in the family is so real and so tragic. It felt even more real because at that time, I was still part of the family restaurant business and I understood and connected so well to that feeling of being busy and not always getting the proper attention of the parents, but that the parents were also doing their best to mind their children. Nobody is perfect, not in these fictional characters and not in real life. There’s the doing homework while the phone rang, the helping out where you could help until you were old enough to part-time at the store, the bustle of restaurant life, the family business whom the patreons grew to adore the children of.

All of the characters were amazing and Harry was absolutely a delight; a sweet and innocent child that just glows! The book goes through tragedy separately, as characters, and then together. Nearly all the characters grew and had their own stories within this book; their own hurdles to cross as they overcome other challenges in their personal lives.

This book is unforgettable because after all these years, I can still recount the vivid emotions that this book brought me. Heart wrenching and then heart warming, Jo has spun a beautiful tale that lasted me all these years and never has quite let me go; a true rollercoaster of a story that focuses on the family, tragedy and grief, and love.

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.