The Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins – Book Review


The Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins (Harper Collins UK)

Review copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Genres: Drama, Women’s fiction, Family

RATING: 4/5

The Story

Three estranged sisters have a shock when they attend the reading of their mother’s will – in order to receive their inheritance, they must complete a list of tasks together, spanning a year. For sensitive Dee, being close to her sisters seems like an impossible dream. Fleur, the free spirit and Rose, the control freak, think it’s a waste of time. The feud between these women can’t be fixed in a few weekends. For the sake of their mother, they’ll give it a go, but none expect the program to succeed. What they don’t know is that the next year will change their lives and relationships forever.

The Review

The Kicking the Bucket List is a wonderfully unique concept. How many of us would kill to have such a legacy from a parent who has passed on? An entire year of activities to bring a family closer together. Some say that love cannot be controlled, but this novel shows it can, at the very least, be manipulated.

The three sisters, Dee, Fleur and Rose, are distinct, well outlined characters. At time they can be a little two-dimensional, but some elements of their different personalities are sure to resonate with most, if not all readers. The majority of the novel is written from the perspective of Dee, however Fleur and Rose do get a bit of personal narration themselves. Although I believe it’s important for the story that each sister has ‘their say’, at times I felt that Hopkins struggled to strike the correct tone or style. Whilst Dee’s narrative is just that, a first person narrative like that found in many novels, the other two were harder to pin down. Sometimes they read like a diary entry, sometimes like a prayer, sometimes like a conversation with their deceased mother. I would have preferred if each sister had their own distinct narrative style, to provide context and individuality to their thoughts and feelings.

Nevertheless, The Kicking the Bucket List is for the most part a beautifully handled tale of sisterhood, touching on themes of grief, loss, love and happiness with great tenderness and respect. There were points during this novel were I was on the verge of tears, and many more when they were free flowing! Having siblings myself, I found it so easy to relate to the struggles these sisters were experiencing. Misunderstandings can cause so many difficulties and frustrations, and oftimes during the book I was close to yelling at them “JUST EXPLAIN YOURSELF!”. If everybody was honest, at least the world would be simpler.

Dee was the main focus of the novel. An artist and single mother of a grown-up daughter, she had a peaceful life down in the countryside of Cornwall, but the death of her mother alongside the passing of her landlady threw her life into turmoil. Many would crumble under these circumstances; her mother was the only member of her family she really spoke to, and she was being evicted from the home she had rented for over 25 years. I was really intrigued to see how Dee would handle these situations, and I can’t say I was disappointed. Although I don’t usually enjoy escapades of sensitive, big-hearted characters (I find them a bit unrealistic, weak and dreary), Hopkins has written a woman with backbone and integrity which is extremely admirable. The same goes for Dee’s sisters – although they all have dislikable traits, there was also something sympathetic about all of them.

My favourite parts of the novel were definitely when the three sisters were interacting on their weekend excursions. With a host of activities including colonics, cat sanctuaries and perfume palaces, Hopkins exploited many wonderful opportunities for laughs and tender moments. Often funny, always meaningful, The Kicking the Bucket List has to be one of the more unique novels of friendship within families. It’s an issue which affects us all, and I think we could all learn something from this book. I know I did.

The Kicking the Bucket List is published TOMORROW, 9th March!

Cathy Hopkins can be contacted via her website and twitter.

 

 

Always by Sarah Jio is out TODAY


A beautiful story of a lost love, found again. If you like a good romance with an air of mystery and intrigue, this is the one for you.

Read my comprehensive review here.

You can buy the book from any good book store – links are available on Jio’s website here.

Gingernut x

 

Always by Sarah Jio – Book Review


Always by Sarah Jio  (Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine)

Review copy provided by Netgalley.

Genres: Romance, Drama, Mystery

RATING: 4/5

 

The Story

Kailey is in love with life, her city and her handsome fiance. Her life is perfect. At least, until an encounter with a homeless man drags her straight back into the past. The man is Cade, once the owner of a successful music empire, and the love of Kailey’s life. Devastated at what has happened to Cade, she takes it upon herself to help him. Cade barely recognises her and has no idea why his life turned out the way it did – it is up to Kailey to piece his life back together, but in doing so she risks tearing her own life apart.

You never forget your first love. The old adage certainly holds true in this beautiful, thoughtful novel by Sarah Jio.

 

The Review

From the very first page, I feel like I know who Kailey is. That is Jio’s gift. Writing believable characters is hard at the best of times, but being able to do in a subtle, nuanced way is a real art. Jio uses the words and actions of this cast to show their personalities and emotions. The novel is a rollercoaster of emotion, and we live it inside Kailey’s head. Being able to accurately portray Kailey’s thoughts and feelings during some quite traumatic situations is key to the success of this novel, and Jio nails it.

From the very beginning of this novel, I felt like I understood Kailey’s situation. She has a great fiance, an exciting job, a fantastic future awaiting her, but there’s an air of hesitation about her. In a way, it all seems a little too perfect. The opening chapter does a brilliant job of making me curious, and I love a book that makes me curious.

This intrigue is maintained for the entirety of Always, helped immensely by Jio’s clever use of time-jumps. We live through Kailey’s present and past in alternating segments, slowly piecing together her story. These flashbacks to the past are great not only for providing context to Kailey’s current situation, but also for explaining to the reader all that Cade has lost, and how difficult it is for Kailey to see him like he is.

It’s a novel which is uplifting, emotional, thoughtful and at some moments truly heart-wrenching. What it isn’t, however, is a sappy, wet tale of stereotypical love. It’s nuanced. Kailey ends up in an impossible situation; helping her first love to get his life back together, whilst also making sure her new love doesn’t think she’s abandoning him. Always is a novel that makes the reader think. What would I do in this situation? Often there is no right or wrong answer, but in the end we are left with a satisfying story which feels like everything happened the way it should.

It’s a very unique idea for a novel, but one which I think every reader could relate to in one way or another. My only criticism? Though intriguing, the novel is, on some occasions, a little predictable.

Always is released on 7th February 2017, and is available for preorder now.

Jio can be contacted via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

NetGalley Update


Woo! Just an update on my previous post about free books to review, I’ve already been approved to review 3!  They are sent straight to my kindle to read completely at my leisure 😀

I may never have to pay for a book again at this rate.

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Feeling lucky!

Gingernut x

The Last Mortal Bond (Book 3): A Spoiler-free Recommendation of an Entralling Fantasy Series


I love reading. Love love LOVE it.

With that in mind, I have no idea why it took me so long to purchase The Last Mortal Bond,  the final book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series I started reading over a year ago. I won’t give you a synopsis as it’s the last book in a series of three, but the author is Brian Staveley, and you can check out his epic blog here to find a synopsis for all 3 novels (by the way, the blog is a fantastic resource for wanna-be fantasy authors like myself and anyone who wants to get inside the mind of such an exciting novelist).

I’m pleased to announce that I have finally started The Last Mortal Bond, and I’m kicking myself for leaving it so long. IT’S AWESOME! 

Because it’s been about a year since I read the second installment, I will admit that I couldn’t precisely remember where everybody was up to when the last book ended. Enter Mr Staveley, an author with the skill to remind me what’s been going on without relying on boring and transparent narration provided by the main character as they re-live the events of previous novels and ponder their significance – sadly this seems to be a trick used by many authors as trilogies become the norm for successful publications.

According to my Kindle I’m 27% through the book at the moment (eurgh, I know. Kindle. I’m truly a lover of physical media, and Amazon is the devil, but it was bought for me as a present and to be honest, getting any book I want at my fingertips in an instant is a little too hard to resist.) 27% through probably isn’t the best place to be when writing a review/recommendation but I have a pressing need to get people to read these books and I can’t really wait until I finish (it’s quite a long book and my job keeps getting in the way!).

Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to pique your interest.

A lot has already happened in the first third of the book; the plot has moved on significantly from page one, many of the characters are facing situations they haven’t been in before, we’re learning more and more about each character (their strengths, weaknesses and motivations) and there is an air of mystery about how the trilogy will end which is very difficult to unpick. Nothing is predictable, and yet everything that has happened so far is ultimately satisfying and seems true to the world the author has created.

I clearly can’t speak for the end of the book – for all I know Mr Staveley could ruin it all in the next few pages – but based on the previous installments, I have the sneaking suspicion that it will culminate in a brilliant finale to a series which will stick in my mind long after I’ve turned the final page. As much as I hate finishing a book, I also can’t wait for my lunch-break to get stuck in again. It’s a problem I’m happy to be burdened with.

If you fancy being in a similar predicament (and I highly recommend you try it), and you enjoy books which can be both heartbreaking and uplifting, intriguing and frustrating, fantastical and grounded and all held together by complex, real and relatable characters, I highly recommend this series.

You can purchase any and all of the books from any good retailer – I’d be really excited to hear what you think when you read them so stay in touch!

Gingernut x