Book Review: The Kicking The Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

Book number 16 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Kicking The Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins.

‘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…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So I have a list – a bucket list – as I assume most people do.  A list of things we’d like to do, see and achieve within our lifetime.  What I enjoyed about The Kicking The Bucket List was the unusual twist on this concept.  Iris Parker had created her list, but rather than creating it for herself she had created it for her estranged daughters in the event of her death.  In order to receive their inheritance they have to spend the months following her death completing the tasks that she sets for them.

Iris’ list comprises of activities designed to bring her daughters together following her death, something she had sadly failed to do in life.  This fact comes across as both tragic and endearing: the fact that even her death wouldn’t stop her trying to bring them back together.

I really enjoyed reading about Dee, Fleur and Rose.  They were far more complex characters than I had expected when I first started reading this novel, and their back stories made me realise just why they were the way that they were.  As you move through the novel you can see why they have drifted apart, but also why they need to come back together.

This really is a lovely story that explores both life and death without any morbidity.  It’s a story of family relationships, both past and present, and shows us why we really do need the love of those closest to us.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Guest Book Review: How To Train Your Dragon: How To Steal a Dragons Sword by Cressida Cowell

So today is a special day…my 10 year old son has agreed (ok he was bribed!) to write a book review!  He is currently working his way through Cressida Cowell’s series, How To Train A Dragon.  It has taken me to book 9 to convince him to do this, so here goes!

‘The story continues in the ninth volume of Hiccup’s How to Train Your Dragon memoirs.

Bad times have come to the Archipelago. Ever since the woods of Berserk burned down, it is almost as if the world is cursed. Dragons are starting to revolt against their Masters. The waters have risen, flooding fields and washing whole villages away. But worse still, the wicked witch Excellinor has returned. Can Hiccup find the King’s Things and win the sword-fighting contest to stop Alvin the Treacherous from becoming King of the Wilderwest?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Firstly I should say that of my two sons, it has taken me a really long time to convince Bill that reading is great.  He’s still very picky about what he reads, but Cressida Cowell has really captured his imagination for which I am very grateful.  Enjoy his review, all his own words!

Characters

The main characters in this book are Hiccup, Camacazi and Fishlegs.  They are all quite skinny and thought of as nerds.  The villains are Alvin the Treacherous and the Witch Excellinor.

Plot

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is about to become King of the Wilderwest, but his unpleasant cousin Snotlout threw a stone at his helmet revealing Hiccups biggest secret: the slave mark.  This causes everyone to turn their back on Hiccup, leaving him to fight for his place as King of the Wilderwest!

Your Opinion

I enjoyed the book as I thought it was quite extreme!

Recommend?

I would recommend this as I enjoyed it so other people might.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley

So book number 15 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley.

‘Molly Bishop loves living in Manhattan and managing a boutique luxury hotel. She’s about to be promoted to her dream job of General Manager, the role she’s been striving for her entire career.

There’s only one thing standing in her way.

The will of her childhood friend, Christian Ford’s grandfather. She hasn’t even seen Christian in over ten years, but a recent run-in with his grandfather during a rare visit home, resulted in a new condition to the will. Christian will only inherit the ranch he’s been running and the real estate development business that he has expanded, if he marries Molly and stays married for at least six months.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So this is a story about meddling family members if ever I saw one! Christian Ford’s grandfather seeks to push Christian into a more settled way of life as he creates a condition within his will, pushing Christian into an arranged marriage in order to inherit the ranch and business that he has worked so hard for.  Whilst his grandfather does not expect him to remain married, he does expect him to live as a married man for six months.  In addition to this stipulation within his will, Christian’s grandfather is very specific about who his grandson should marry: Molly Bishop.  Molly is a young woman with career aspirations in the hotel business.  In addition to this, she no longer lives in Beauville, Montana, her hometown.  Instead she lives in New York City, which she loves.

Christian and Molly, whom haven’t seen each other in over a decade, must work to find a way to coexist within a marriage that they find themselves part of.  This novel follows them as they navigate their way through the situation they find themselves in as they get to know each other all over again and they begin to assess what it is they are both looking for in life.

This is a really enjoyable, light read.  As previously mentioned, i’m really enjoying small town American novels at the moment and this is no exception – give it a try!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

The Boy Who Lived. 20 Years On.

Harry Potter.  The Boy Who Lived.

In the last 20 years the literary world, particularly the world inhabited by avid children and teenager readers, has changed dramatically.  Whilst I don’t want to downplay amazing authors such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl (I honestly don’t think I can downplay them – they are awesome), J.K. Rowling opened up a new world of possibilities when she introduced Harry James Potter to the masses.

My 13 year old self was introduced to Harry Potter by my lovely English teacher, who was encouraging us to read all the books shortlisted for the Carnegie Award that year.  As an already enthusiastic reader, this was not a problem for me but i’m sure you can imagine some of the groans that were rumbling around that classroom.  That year however, those groans quickly disappeared as people argued over the copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone that was circulating the class.  At that age I was quick to devour any books that I could get my hands on (often having to be vetted by my parents as they weren’t always age appropriate!), and Harry Potter was no different.  Actually no, Harry Potter was different.  Harry, Ron and Hermione opened up a world like no other – one that I don’t think anyone expected.  From that point onwards I, like the many millions across the world, was hooked.  My (now) husband faithfully queued with me at midnight in 2005 and again in 2007 as I eagerly awaited the release of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince and then Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, knowing full well that I would not be sleeping until I’d finished them (secretly he was glad, because he knew he’d get his hands on them the next day without having to admit that he wanted to read them too).

I’ve spent many years being a little uncool because I love to read (the year I read Dracula whilst on a girly holiday to Magaluf sticks in my mind), however J.K. Rowling introduced a world that everyone wants to be a part of.  I love books, and I love the fact that you can disappear into a different world, if only for a short time.  Very few books however remain with you for quite as long as these seven books have.  For me, Harry Potter was part of my teenage years and early twenties.  What amazes me however, is that their longevity has meant that they continue to mean something, even now, 20 years on.  My 10 year old son has his copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone ready to read (once he’s finished the Percy Jackson series, obviously), and he’s excited to read it.  A new generation of fans is emerging with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – my other 10 year old son is less of a reader than his brother but he is enthralled with the wizarding world that he has discovered on the big screen, even buying himself Newt Scamanders wand at our recent trip the Warners Bros Studio Tour.  Not only has J.K. Rowling opened up this amazing wizarding world to us all, but she also created a whole generation of readers who can’t get enough of these fantastical universes in which they can immerse themselves.  Authors have found themselves with young readers who can’t get enough of their creations – Veronica Roth, Stephanie Meyer and Rick Riordan to name but a few.

Thanks to Harry, Ron and Hermione we now have a whole range of strong characters across a number of genres who show our children just what they can achieve if they really try.  I am proud to be part of the Harry Potter generation, and I am proud that my children are becoming fans of the wizarding world.

I will however always be a little disappointed when another birthday passes me by without the arrival of my Hogwarts acceptance letter.

Book Review: Waiting for the Bee Stings by Calvin Wade

I seem to have made it to book 13 (unlucky for some) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge!  My latest read was Waiting for the Bee Stings by Calvin Wade.

‘Mia Maher is nearing forty. She arrives at the funeral of an old friend, Chrissie, who has died suddenly. Happily married, with two school age children, Mia is unaware that this will be the day that changes everything and her life will switch on to an entirely new path.
‘Waiting For The Bee Stings’ is a story about the lives of four friends who met at Newcastle University in the mid-1990s. It is a tale of love, friendship, passion and betrayal.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Waiting for the Bee Stings begins with Mia Maher attending the funeral of Chrissie, her best friend when she was young, but someone she had lost touch with over the years.  Mia, Chrissie, Gary and Jason had been firm friends throughout their university years when they had their whole lives ahead of them.  The novel is told from the viewpoints of Mia and Jason as they reconnect following Chrissie’s funeral.  With the story told from both characters point of view, we get a well rounded view of how Mia came to marry Gary, and how the four friends came to be estranged after having such a close friendship.

There’s very little more I can say without starting to give away how this story progresses.  I will say however that I enjoyed the different characters within the novel and whilst I did guess some of the plot, other parts remained a mystery which is always a winner in my view!  I felt that Mia was a little naive (if not a little stupid actually) as some of the things that happened were rather obvious, however I really enjoyed the character of Jason even if he was often a little wounded.  Well worth a read, and I will be exploring other novels by Calvin Wade.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long

Book number 14 in my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge is Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long.

‘Abby Halladay has the perfect life. Or, rather, she will…as long as everything goes exactly according to plan. Abby never leaves anything to chance—not her job as a syndicated columnist, not her engagement to her fiancé, Fred, and certainly not her impending wedding in Paris (New Jersey, that is).

Unfortunately for Abby, even the best-laid plans often go awry—like when Fred runs away to Paris (France, that is), her column is canned, and her dream home is diagnosed with termites. Forced to move back in with her parents and drive her dad’s cab, Abby’s perfect life has now officially become the perfect disaster.

Then a funny thing happens. Slowly but surely, Abby begins letting go of her dreams of perfection. As she does, the messy, imperfect life she thought she never wanted starts to feel exactly like the one she needs.

Poignant and heartfelt, Changing Lanes celebrates the unexpected joys of everyday life—and the enduring promise of second chances.’

 

Firstly I should probably say that I seem to have developed a bit of a ‘thing’ for small town American novels…there are still a few reviews to come on novels like this, so I hope you are prepared!

I enjoyed this novel.  I liked that Abby felt she had the perfect life, but as it starts to disintegrate around her she realises that what she wants is not necessarily ‘picture perfect’.  We all have a vision of what we believe our lives should be like, but that vision and the reality can often be quite different.  Actually achieving what we believe we want can sometimes not actually bring us the happiness that we seek, and this is exactly what happens to Abby.  When Fred leaves her she is forced to rethink her life and what she really wants from it, something that eventually becomes a positive experience for her, even if she does spend a large portion of the novel in denial that Fred has really gone.

I enjoyed the fact that this novel makes you think about your own life decisions a little, and also what your own perception of a perfect life really is.  It’s a great piece of chick lit, with some romance thrown in for good measure.  Give it a read!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: Derailed in Chancey by Kay Dew Shostak

Book number 12 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Derailed in Chancey by Kay Dew Shostak.

‘Carolina’s in-law’s marriage didn’t survive the holidays visiting in her and Jackson’s new home in Chancey, Georgia. Now both families have left, but she’s not sure how much longer she’ll still be in the small town. She knew moving teenagers from the Atlanta suburbs to a small Georgia mountain town last year was a horrible idea. She knew opening a B&B for railfans was an even worse plan. What she didn’t know, was that her marriage might not survive what was beginning to feel like an honest to goodness train wreck.

Oncoming headlights aren’t only aimed at her family, the town of Chancey is being set up for a collision that could change everything. And as that unfolds, Carolina’s husband Jackson is smack dab in the middle of it all, his hand on the throttle, going full steam ahead.

Drama unfolds on the high school stage, but it can’t match the drama happening right in Chancey when everything is suddenly on the line. Yet even in the midst of change and heartache, a small town must keep it’s sense of humor, and you can count on Chancey to be able to laugh at itself!’

Derailed in Chancey is the third book in the Chancey Book series.  Firstly, I must confess to not having read books one and two.  Obviously I have no idea if I would have enjoyed this novel more if I had read books one and two, but I felt it worked well as a standalone novel.  In fact, I couldn’t actually tell who books one and two were about, so I really did feel that reading it on it’s own was fine.

So…Carolina.  The novel is told from her viewpoint, as she slowly learns to live with the changes that her family have undergone – two teenagers now living in a rural town after having a suburban life, and a husband becoming increasingly distant.  Carolina has to learn to embrace her new way of life as a B & B owner housing railroad enthusiasts whilst throwing herself into a new role within town.

I have to say, I often found Carolina a little annoying.  She seemed to spend a lot of time looking for reasons to dislike living in Chancey rather than really appreciating the friends and lifestyle she now had in her new home town.  This is not to say I did not enjoy the novel – I enjoyed the setting and the small town politics!  I also enjoyed the storyline between Jackson and Carolina as they worked their way through a new stage in their marriage.  I enjoyed this novel as a light read, and would happily read another of Kay Dew Shostak’s novels.  If you’ve read this novel, let me know what you thought!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖