The Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

The Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

 

34403262Publisher: Harper

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 296

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

‘Warm, wise and full of heart… I absolutely loved this book.’ Lucy Diamond

Meet the daughters of Iris Parker. Dee; sensitive and big-hearted; Rose uptight and controlled and Fleur the reckless free spirit.
At the reading of their mother’s will, the three estranged women are aghast to discover that their inheritance comes with strings attached. If they are to inherit her wealth, they must spend a series of weekends together over the course of a year and carry out their mother’s ‘bucket list’.

But one year doesn’t seem like nearly enough time for them to move past the decades-old layers of squabbles and misunderstandings. Can they grow up for once and see that Iris’ bucket list was about so much more than money…

Rating: 4/5

“The Kicking the Bucket List” is Cathy Hopkin’s first adult book – previously she has been writing teen fiction. As soon as I spotted this novel on NetGalley I knew that I want to read it – I love the cover, it’s so uplifting and the three ducks are lovely 🙂 Also, the tag saying “Even when she’s gone, Mum still knows best” is really eye – catching and I just had a feeling that this can be THE book. It is about death and grief but dealing with those issues in a lovely, exceptional way. The writing style is truly great, it was flowing, it was so vivid, bringing all the characters and events effortlessly to life. I couldn’t wait to see what the next task is going to be – some of them were better, some of them not so good but in the end they should have bring the girls together. Did they?

The book started very promising and it quickly started to gain a pace. However, somewhere in the middle it went a little downhill for me, felt a little too slow and too flat, but in the end it gathered pace again. There were many funny moments and I more than once laughed out loud, but it was also full of very poignant moments that almost brought tears to my eyes. There were passages that I loved and passages that I skim – read, as I thought they were not necessary. There were moments that were so important but also some that felt too insignificant. But altogether, I totally enjoyed this story and was engrossed in the three sisters’ lives – the three very different women are the main characters in this story – well, just like sisters can be different. They are sisters by blood but because of life getting in the way they are actually more like strangers – they don’t get in touch, they don’t see each other, they don’t know what is happening with each other. I don’t know if it’s such a typical relationship between sisters? Though, you know, I also have a sister – she’s 8 years younger than me and there is 1000 km between us since more than 10 years now and well, yes, we talk on the phone every once in a while, or we send an email and we know what’s going on in our lives but I wouldn’t call it the perfect sisterhood – although Rose, Daisy and Fleur took their relationship to another level, I think, as they only knew what’s happening with their sisters through their mother – but now she’s gone. She had also added some conditions to her will. The girls must complete some tasks before they receive their inheritance but the main reason is that Iris wanted to bring all her girls together – will she manage, from beyond the grave?

I must say that I liked the characters immediately, probably because they were so honest and genuine in the way they were. Rose, the eldest, is also the bossiest and she seems so cold – hearted. She is the one who wanted to backtrack from the challenge – Dee thinks it’s because she’s so stand – offish, has enough money and doesn’t need to be afraid of the future. But – is this the real reason? The more you read the more you learn about Rose and her reasons. Yes, she was smart alec, she thought she knows best but I think that deep down it was because she was the eldest and somehow she always felt the responsibility for her younger siblings.Daisy, the middle sister, is an artist and she often has her head in the clouds – she, unlike Rose, doesn’t own a home, she only rents it and Rose can’t understand why. Dee turns 50 in the book and her birthday party, especially the song sang by Anne and Marie was fantabulous! Dee is single, and her only daughter lives in Australia. After the misfortunate relationships Dee decided no more men in her life, she’s going to concentrate on her art but well, how do they say, if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans – because a man, or even more, appear on the scenes. Dee is desperate to make the challenge her mum set for the sisters, as without her part of the inheritance she can’t buy the house she’s currently living in. But she also wants to connect with her sisters again, she misses them – really misses them. Then we have Fleur, the youngest one, real power – woman who runs a very prosperous property portfolio and next to having some fancy apartments all over the world she also has one in London. I’d personally love to know more about Fleur, because I have a feeling that I didn’t get to know her as much as I’d like, she was the closed, withdrawn one, even though she probably had the sharpest tongue of all of them.
There is also Daniel, the man who was helping Iris organizing the tasks for the girls. Let me just tell you that from the very beginning there was something in him that made me unsure. I didn’t trust him, full stop. Was I right?

Dee is the main character in the story and it’s told mostly from her point of view, however there are also chapters told by Rose and Fleur, so we also get a chance to get to know – and understand – them much better, especially Rose. I also totally adored how the relationship between them was developing – it was not too quick, it was not a bed of roses and it’s good, because then it would seem too unrealistic, and doing it this way the author has made it much more authentic and genuine. Well, you can’t fall into each other’s arms after years of hidden grudges and animosities and not being in touch, right? So it was a real joy to see how eventually the girls start to stick up for each other. And they loved their mother. They could be different, they might have not agree on different issues, but what they had in common was the fact that they loved Iris, so I imagined how emotional it must have been for them, to see her in the video messages. The author has brilliantly captured all the emotions between the sisters, this great deal of misunderstandings, hurt and jealousy. I think she described it just like it is in real life. The way they picked on a word or two and chose to understand it the wrong way, the way they jumped to conclusions, well, it was just so realistic and honest. Also the reasons why the sisters didn’t want to partake in the challenge were thoroughly explained, the secrets were revealed and it really let us understand what and why.

I truly enjoyed “The Kicking the Bucket List” by Cathy Hopkins. It was emotional, it was full of feelings, it was incredibly funny and poignant, just the perfect mix. It made me pick my phone and call my mum and sister, just to hear their voices, to know they are there. It is a story that will probably make you think and re – evaluate your relationships and show you that you shouldn’t take them for granted. It is a book about appreciating what you have because it can happen that very suddenly there will be nothing more to appreciate, a lovely and warm story about finding happiness and contentment. Recommended!

Advertisements

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

 

33015034Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 288

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 21.09.2017)

 

Synopsis:

A gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of The Girls. Beautiful. Rich. Mysterious. Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won’t when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family’s rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn’t know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice…

Rating: 4/5

Ah, guys. Don’t be misled by the lovely cover of this book. This novel is not as rosy as it may suggest! I’ve read this story in one day. It was impossible for me to put it down for a moment. It was disturbing, dysfunctional, controversial and thought – provoking, full of dark secrets that go back in generations.

Lane Roanoke’s mother has committed suicide but Lane can consider herself lucky – the family that she’s never seen before, grandparents and her cousin Allegra, want her to come to the very rural Osage Flats in Kansas. Her mother never really talked about Lane’s grandparents so Lane doesn’t really know what to expect – the only thing she knows is that her mother ran away from her home years before – just like many other Roanoke girls before her. They ran away, or they die…
The story really takes place over one summer, when Lane arrives to the Roanoke family, with many retrospections to the past, and thanks to them we start to understand what’s really happening in this family. After learning what really happens there, Lane decided to leave and wants to take Allegra with her but she blankly refuses, even though she knows she’s living a nightmare in a toxic environment. Lane vows never to come back to Kansas but eleven years later she receives a phone call from her grandfather that Allegra is missing.

This story, mostly written from Lane’s point of view, also allows us to get to know the 17200887_10206437408214166_7754175943052932566_nperspectives of all the other Roanoke girls as well. It seamlessly flows between “now” and “then”. It made me feel hate and feel upset – as it deals with things that I found uncomfortable – but at the same time I couldn’t stop reading it, and I am also thinking that the author has handled the issues she wrote about in a really skilful way, without adding drama or trying to make them even worse. The author deals with the secret and us knowing about it, about those difficult themes, in the best possible way, with a lot of gentleness and subtlety.

All the Roanoke girls are exceptionally beautiful, without exception. But they all keep shocking secrets. The big secret, that I relatively quickly guessed, was also revealed early on. I think it couldn’t be different with the secret, it must have been revealed so early on because without doing so the story wouldn’t make sense probably. This way, we weren’t asking WHAT or WHO but WHY. The author also had time to concentrate on the whole family, on explaining the relationships and bonds.

The characters in this story were full of flaws, and I mean full! It wasn’t easy to like them, to be honest, but I also think that they didn’t expect us to like them. I was irritated by the way Allegra and Lane were as teenagers but well, that’s the way teenagers are, right – behaving as if they know everything and experienced everything when in fact they don’t know anything, showboating, patronizing… The adult Lane was also not my favourite person, but now I am thinking that perhaps the way she was behaving was her protective shell? However, the characters, with all their flaws, dark secrets, habits were realistic and genuine and it was like a real breath of fresh air. They didn’t pretend to be somebody else, they were as they were, they were themselves and I appreciated them for this very much.

My biggest problem was that I couldn’t understand what kept the girls from telling the truth. There were no signals of them being brainstormed or something like this, it looked as if they’ve chosen this life and they themselves didn’t want to change it. It was not like this that they were loved and cherished only at home, as we could see they all were easily finding boyfriends or admirers – so why? Why too choose suicide? They did know that what’s happening at home is sick, and I guess this is what bothered me too much when reading this story – but probably they just couldn’t do it differently, as actually them being so strongly rooted at the Roanoke House was the most important information.

“The Roanoke Girls” is a very exceptional novel about appearances and that it often happens that evil things are hidden under the facade of money and being a “good” family with traditions. It was bitter and brutally honest, telling things how they are but sparing us the worst moments – I appreciated this fact. It was sharp and very well observed. And I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t guess the last twist. I didn’t. It didn’t cross my mind. This novel pulls you in, keeps you at its grips, dunk you into the Roanokes’ world completely. Full of dark secrets, disturbing and unforgettable, I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for more from Amy Engel, because this novel has shaken my world. Truly recommended!

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson

 

33862163Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 9th March 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 496

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 04.05.2017)

 

Synopsis:

When Lewis Harley has a health scare in his early forties, he takes it as a wake-up call. So he and his wife Charlotte leave behind life in the fast lane and Lewis opens the antique shop he has dreamed of. Bonnie Brookland was brought up in the antiques trade and now works for the man who bought out her father’s business, but she isn’t happy there. So when she walks into Lew’s shop, she knows this is the place for her.

As Bonnie and Lew start to work together, they soon realise that there is more to their relationship than either thought. But Bonnie is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Lew and Charlotte have more problems than they care to admit. Each has secrets in their past which are about to be uncovered. Can they find the happiness they both deserve?

Rating: 5/5

Oh yes, it was the perfect – and highest! – time to dive into the new Milly Johnson’s book, “The Queen of Wishful Thinking”. It is already a long time since I’ve read last Milly’s book – it’s the lack of time’s fault! – so I was incredibly giddy with excitement to receive my review copy and started to read it almost on the spot. And my verdict is – it was gorgeous! It was so great to be back with Milly Johnson’s brilliant writing and storytelling, to get to know the new fantastic characters. So I can tell you right at the beginning of my review, whatever you do, guys, just drop it and make sure you have this book on your list – it is warm, uplifting and incredibly genuine. This is for sure Milly Johnson at her best. I think that if you gave me the book without telling who the author is, I’d guess it immediately – Ms Johnson’s writing style is one of the most recognisable and inimitable. It’s lovely, it’s warm, it’s inviting and it is so very easy to feel part of the story. She has again delivered a brilliant novel full of friendship, loyalty, finding courage and starting new.

There is probably the greatest bunch of characters in this book, and I mean not only the main characters but the colourful group of antique dealers who are always there when Bonnie needs them. They all had their own stories and they were all full of love, friendship, broken hearts and happy endings – though not always, but they were always warm and uplifting. Also, they all had lovely nicknames that usually described what they were most interested in, and they all knew Bonnie since she was a child and they for sure knew what the word loyalty means, and I applauded them for it so very much.
All the characters are so different, and their lives are different as well. The story shows how some of them has changed because of the money went straight into their heads and how some of them must live, trying to keep their heads above water, and the contrast was so huge and greatly portrayed.
I loved Bonnie, simple as that. Yes, there were moments that I felt desperate with her, felt sorry for her living a life so manipulated but they quickly passed away – the more I got to know her, the more I understood her and I really could get where she was coming from and why she was so scared. She was a woman with a heart in the right place and she was always looking for good in people, even if they didn’t deserve it. Kind, polite and creative and even though she lived with a secret that overwhelmed her, she’d rather live like this than betray the memory of the person.
Stephen is a character that you start to dislike at the very beginning. Bonnie’s manipulative and controlling husband and to say that he was cold – hearted would be an understatement. Blackmailing his wife to stay with him, even though he didn’t love her, he just needed someone to boss around. I also think that there was something wrong with the mental state of his. While Lewis was, of course, a very different story! The owner of the antique shop Pot of Gold where Bonnie finds her second job, he was a lovely, fair kind of man – unfortunately married to a very awful woman who so didn’t deserve him!

I love when the stories in the book interweave together and in this novel it proceeds seamlessly. I also loved the antiques thread in it and I love the descriptions of the items that were for sale or were bought and how this works. This book is written in the best way possible – you feel immediately at home with the story, you immediately fell for the characters, you keep your fingers crossed for them or want to punch them in their faces. It is light and easy to follow and it flows effortlessly, from one scene to another and there is not a moment of confusion or a single moment flat. Yes, it is a long story and actually the most things happened in the last part, and it was then that I was literally glued to the pages and shooed off all those that wanted to disturb me my reading, but even if the rest of the story was slower there were enough things and information to keep us hooked, and yes, the author took her time to reveal the secret and then the consequences that followed but she has done it in a perfect way. You know, sometimes the authors mention a secret almost on every page and when it comes to revealing it you are so tired of it that no matter how life – changing or twisty it may be it just doesn’t sweep you off your feet, which was absolutely NOT the case here. We knew something happened, we knew Stephen has something in his hand to keep Bonnie with him but there were so many other important things and subplots that the waiting for it to be told didn’t drag on. But back to the writing itself – there were moments that the story made me feel sad but there were also many moments to make me laugh out loud, especially at the (in)famous articles from the local magazine Daily Trumpet. Milly Johnson’s sense of humour just wonderfully match my own.

Really, guys, it’s hard to do this book justice in a review, as it was SO good. Feel – good and totally honest and genuine, full of colourful characters that you root for, I won’t hesitate to say that “The Queen of Wishful Thinking” is a must – read this spring and I will be recommending it to all my friends.

16938813_10206430775448351_7979281882195805419_n

 

The Stranger in My Home by Adele Parks

The Stranger in My Home by Adele Parks

 

28584718Publisher: Headline Review

Publishing Date: 9th February 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 480

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

The Number One eBook Bestseller

What would YOU do if your child wasn’t yours?

Utterly compelling, Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks’s new contemporary novel The Stranger In My Home, is sure to move, grip and delight her fans, along with readers of Liane Moriarty, Jane Shemilt and Lisa Jewell.

Alison is lucky and she knows it. She has the life she always craved, including a happy home with Jeff and their brilliant, vivacious teenage daughter, Katherine – the absolute centre of Alison’s world.

Then a knock at the door ends life as they know it.

Fifteen years ago, someone else took Alison’s baby from the hospital. And now Alison is facing the unthinkable.

The daughter she brought home doesn’t belong to her.

When you have everything you dreamed of, there is everything to lose.

Rating: 4/5

It’s already a long, long time since I’ve read an Adele Parks’ book, so I was over the moon when my review copy arrived – it has such a gorgeous cover, and I also loved the sound of the blurb, so intriguing and so promising. All the raving reviews have also made me desperate to read the book so sooner rather than later I found myself glued to the pages. It is for sure unusual book with a difference. Already the tag line “I thought she was my daughter. I was wrong” is so intriguing and after seeing it many scenarios kept scrolling in my head. It is a story about picking up pieces of broken hearts, about finding yourself afresh, dealing with what must be one of the worst possible things a mother can be told.

I think this is a book that you must discover and read for yourself and make up your own mind about it. It started very good, it was quickly paced and we didn’t have to wait long for the main secret to be revealed. Then the story is built around this secret and this is when it goes a little downhill for me. There is a lot of talk but not much is happening, in fact. However, then it comes to the surprising end that I didn’t see coming, really, it took me totally by surprise and I think this is what saved this book for. However, I can’t seem to remember if the author explained what has happened with Mozart?

The author makes it easy with her writing for us to immediately fell for the characters, to feel as devastated as Alison, Jeff, Olivia and Katherine. Just imagine – you are a normal family and then someone comes and destroys it and what should you do or feel, as a parent but also as a child? Adele Parks deals with this particular topic in a good way, I think, she explores all the possibilities, gives her characters free rein. She shows how differently they deal with the issue: when Alice is full of despair, Jeff retreats into his own fictional world, Olivia doesn’t want to accept any changes, she’s hostile and it’s only Katherine who’s flexible enough and open to changes – but are the changes really so good? Wouldn’t it be better to stay in the comfort zones, just like Olivia did? Or is there any particular reason why she’s behaving this way?
The characters are very realistically portrayed, with all their flaws and problems and the way they coped with the situation seemed also realistic – however, I haven’t expected that they come to terms with the situation so quickly, but on the other hand I think they didn’t have a choice, right? So their responses, the way they react are plausible and Adele Parks has proved that she’s a really talented author – because I think it wasn’t an easy task to get into the characters’ heads and to write them and their act this realistic way. Alison was a rather controversial character, I think. I don’t know guys, but if I were in the same situation I am not sure if I’d pushed so much towards keeping in touch with Tom Truby. She was very quick to judge other people and the way they brought their children up, yet her own methods were not the best in my opinion. It wondered me also a bit that she so quickly gave up on Olivia, and not because she felt loyal towards Katherine but just because the girl was not as she imagined her to be.

The book was gripping, even with the moments that dragged too much for my liking. I also had a feeling that the author hasn’t managed with the difficult topic so well. There was this great, promising idea but then the development was not as I had expected it. I mean, I didn’t know how the story should go, how it should end, what would be better, what would be worst, but I hoped for the better delivery and development. However, I mostly focused on the relationships and the way the author captured them all. This book is a great psychological portrait of all the characters and their way to cope with the situation, showing how they cope (or don’t!) with the revelation – and it also makes you wondering over and over again what you would do. I can’t imagine I could live normally after receiving such news. I also am not sure if I would like to know the truth or rather happily carry on without such knowledge.

The questions in this novel just keep rolling, and the author takes her time to answer them. The tension and the feeling of uncertainty, the questions of what to do are palpable. As it turns out, the story is full of half – truths and lies but Adele Parks’ skilful writing doesn’t give a hint till the end of what’s going to happen. So really, it is not the easiest book to read and rate. It could be much shorter, or it could be written differently, or it could focus on different things, and because of this it was a 3 stars for me for a long time. However, then came the twist – and yes, it was probably the only twist in this long story that was so shocking and unpredictable, that came out of the blue and hit me across my face and made many things in the book clear, and the rating immediately jumped to 4 stars. So whatever you think, keep reading! It will be worth in the end. Recommended!