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.

 

 

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A Court of Mist And Fury


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PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! ….But read the first in the series first, or else it’ll all be ruined for you. Romance, drama, action, warriors, magic – it has everything.

A Court of Thorns and Roses – buy it now! Amazon

I’m having the biggest book hangover. I literally cannot get it off my mind. UNPUTDOWNABLE.

Third one doesn’t come out until May … it’s gonna be a loooong wait 😦

 

Humans – Channel 4


This is just going to be a quick one, but I wanted to recommend ‘Humans’ to you all. It’s about five episodes through at the moment (of 8, I believe). It’s about ‘synthetic humans’ (AI to you and me), and the impact they have on the humans they ‘serve’. There are very interesting story arcs about conscious AI, how humans and AI should and can interact, and the conflict that can develop between the two ‘species’. It is quite philosophical, but it’s also got great drama, character development, the story is extremely interesting and the script makes it all seem very real. I think something like this could happen in the future, and I find it really interesting to see what the world could become. WATCH WATCH WATCH!

The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult


I’ll begin by saying that Jodi Picoult’s novels are not for everyone. They deal with some of the worst themes imaginable; rape, murder, child abuse, genocide to name a few. They are not for people who want a light, happy read. Despite this, she is one of my favourite authors. She writes books that really mean something, and that truly do stay with you for days and weeks after you’ve finished them. What I love the most about her books is that the characters are always wonderfully developed, and she is brilliant at creating a realistic ‘grey area’ within all of them. By that, I mean that there is rarely a good guy and a bad guy, a hero/heroine and villain. Her characters are real people, with real problems, who deal with them in real ways.

The characters in The Storyteller are no different. Sage Singer is a 23 year old recluse. She works at night as a baker, is dating a married man and has a scarred face which she hides from the world. At a grief group she began attending after her mother passed away, Sage meets Josef Weber, a 95 year old German man who everybody loves. They become unlikely friends. One day, Josef asks Sage for a favour – not just any favour. He wants her to help him to die. Sage is horrified at the idea, but as she finds out more about him, she becomes horrified at Josef himself.

I wonder whether it is Sage’s age and love of baking that attracts me to her. I am also 23, and if you’ve read other posts on my blog you’ll know that baking bread is one of my favourite past times. As soon as I read the blurb for this book I was keenly interested, and from the first page my interest was held. Last night I stayed up until 3am reading because I was so hooked. Sage is a likeable character who is naturally very kind. She isn’t materialistic, and is not at all arrogant or egotistical. Despite this, she is sleeping with a married man, can be quick to anger, and doesn’t forgive easily (others or herself). Here is a classic example of the grey area I mentioned above.

I think that The Storyteller might be my one of my favourite of Jodi Picoult’s novels because of the subject matter. It deals with the Holocaust, a truly horrific part of Europe’s history that still has ramifications today. Despite this, I think people are in danger of forgetting just what happened all those years ago under Hitler’s regime, and this book reminds the reader of this in shocking detail.

Yet amongst the horror of the subject matter, there are pockets of beauty in every section of the book. Picoult is a master of weaving the dark and the light in such a way that you are completely aware and understanding of the devestation she is talking about, but at the same time keeping the reader hooked with perfectly timed happy moments. For instance at one point during this novel, a girl thinks she is being sent to her death, and realises later that her life was actually being saved. It is this emotional rollercoaster that Picoult takes you on that really makes her books so fantastic.

I always read to escape. My life is not particularly traumatic or negative, but everyone wants to get away for a while. I read every day to remind myself that this is not all there is. As an escapist novel you can’t really do better than Picoult. Yes, they can be heartbreaking and depressing novels, but they are also uplifting, thought-provoking and intellectual. That is exactly what I want from a novel, and Picoult delivers time and time again.