Blog · Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

#BookReview | THE SCANDAL by Fredrik Backman published by @MichaelJBooks

The Scandal by [Backman, Fredrik]


Based in Beartown.
Well this turned out to be a very surprising read based on how it started. There were a lot of characters, that at times left me feeling bombarded with a barrage of names, best friends names, their parents, parents careers, other adults and their positions, as well as other school friends. There was also a lot of narrative for the main characters, the groups they associated with, the town and it’s obsession with Ice-Hockey and the up coming semi-final match.

Then suddenly from out of nowhere, this book that I was struggling with, had me hooked. Because I had persevered with it initially, I then found I had a better understanding of the characters and their actions and reactions after “The Scandal” took place. Without this background, the story would just be a story about a town that plays ice hockey. But instead it is a whole lot more.

To summarise the story without giving anything away: The town lives and breathes for ice hockey, the pressure from sponsors, parents and supporters for the teenage boys ice hockey team to win is immense. The town is gradually dwindling, ice hockey is the one thing that gives them hope for future prospects. After an event occurs the town is in uproar, how dare anyone put their family before ice hockey! But the actions of a few individuals soon divides opinion and true colours are shown. The popularity of the best players and their parents is based on hockey, and because of this some people will always put hockey first. But others realise that their family and friends are the important things in life, they give the support and loyalty that will serve you well later in life.

As I said at the beginning, this book contains a lot of detail and narrative, but builds up some brilliant characters that are well-developed, especially once you get your head around them, as there are a lot. The narrative gives some great detail into the thoughts, ideas, dreams and hopes of the residents of Beartown.

I would recommend this book to readers of contemporary fiction, mystery, sports fiction. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for my ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest.

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. Change is in the air and a bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

With the town’s future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other.

Which side would you be on?


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1488 KB
  • Print Length: 421 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0718186575
  • Publisher: Penguin (10 Aug. 2017)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton

31450918I would like to thank Netgalley for my ARC of this book for my honest and unbiased opinion.


This tells the story of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.  Protesters make their grievances known.  They have had to endure police brutality, fraud, corruption, lack of free elections and freedom of speech.  The protesters organise strikes. demonstrations, riots and take part in online activism.  When President Mubarak is overthrown by the military and another is elected president, nothing seems to change.  There are more protests, arrests, torture and death.  The violence increases and is like a vicious circle.  The more the activists want to get the word out, the more they are leaving themselves open to attacks and being killed.

The story is focused on Miriam. Khalil and their group of friends.  They are producers of podcasts, conduct interviews, organise protests, help families of the injured, dead and arrested.  Their aim is to get justice for the atrocities that have been committed to the people of Egypt.  It shows a different perspective of the revolution, how things are discussed and planned, how they will deal with the aftermath, their expectations and how they keep the pressure up for justice and the truth to be seen.

I would recommend this book for readers of contemporary fiction.  It is a tough read due to the nature of the subject, but a worthwhile read.


A debut novel that captures the experience of the Egyptian revolution like no news report could

The City Always Wins is a remarkable novel from the psychological heart of a revolution. From the communal highs of pitched night battles against the police in Cairo to the solitary lows of defeated exile in New York, Omar Robert Hamilton’s debut is a unique immersion in one of the key chapters of the twenty-first century. Arrestingly visual, intensely lyrical, uncompromisingly political, The City Always Wins is a novel not just about Egypt’s revolution but about a global generation that tried to change the world.


Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: June 13th 2017 by MCD
Original Title
The City Always Wins
0374123977 (ISBN13: 9780374123970)
Edition Language
Books · Contemporary Fiction · Fiction · Reading · Review

The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes


Mark Mayes is a genius. This is one of those books you occasionally come across that is mind-blowing. I know that before I even start this review, I am not going to be able to do it justice.

My review:

I give this 5*

Firstly, this book is beautiful, from the outer cover to the inner pages, to the story inside. It is beautifully and artistically written. It is a masterpiece, this becomes obvious when you start to read it. You know you are experiencing something wonderful, there are very few books that have left me with this “It was an honour and a privilege to read” feeling.

This is the story of Thomas, Liselotte and Jo short for Johann, though there are many more very important and memorable characters. Thomas and Liselotte are given a box each, their reactions to this mysterious package are completely different.  Thomas is very wary and wants to ignore and forget about his.  Whereas Liselotte embraces her box, opens it and is mesmerised by the contents.  The boxes will lead them on a journey of discovery, of horror and hope, of innocence and mixed paths.  They will travel dark paths where time looses all meaning, and will question life and their own existence and beliefs.

This book is so deep with so many intertwining stories, characters and ideologies, it is amazing that it all fits into 320 pages.  This is not a quick read book, it a book that you will think about.  The characters are wonderfully written and the scenes that Mark has created are astounding. This book has left me awestruck.  There will be people who read and understand philosophical texts, who will take a lot more from this story than I have.  But this lack of philosophical understanding that I have does not for a moment take anything away from the story.  It makes me aware that there is something deeper and profound sat in these pages.

There is one quote that I loved from this story that for me jumped out, though there are a lot i could choose, and that was

“We are cursed with free choice.”

This is not a quick read book, it is a book to be savoured and enjoyed.  It is a work of genius.


‘Gifts ought to be free, but they never are. They tie you to the wishes of others. To your own sad expectations. To the penitentiary of your dreams.’

Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package: a small blue box. Another such item is delivered to his friend Liselotte Hauptmann. These ‘gifts’ will change their lives forever. In the far-off border town of Grenze, a play is to be performed at the Sheol Theatre. Reynard the impresario expects a very special audience. Thomas and Liselotte, together with their friend Johann, are drawn into Reynard’s seductive web, as Daumen, the gift maker, must decide who his master really is.

The Gift Maker is a story about identity, about fulfilling your dreams and becoming the person you always were … at whatever cost.


Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 23rd 2017 by Urbane Publications
ISBN 1911331779 (ISBN13: 9781911331773)
Edition Language English
Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall



I would like to thank Netgalley for my ARC copy of this book for an honest review.

Audrey is the link that holds this story together, she is the linchpin.  One problem though, she died in a mysterious car crash, leaving behind her husband and what seems to be other random strangers.

It is set in Kew Gardens, London, and spans a year.  During that year we discover and meet Jonah, who is Audrey’s husband, Milly a little girl who seems to wander round Kew by herself, Harry the botanist and Chloe the art student and maker of origami birds. They are all linked in their own way to Audrey.

I really wanted to enjoy this story, the characters are well written, the general feel of the book was only okay for me though.  It would be a lazy afternoon read, if I was asked my opinion of it.  It rather feels like i was merely meandering through it, rather than wanting to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.

I have marked this book as a 3*, but with an addition on my personal notes , to come back to this book and try it again, as I didn’t dislike it.


An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens in London.

Nothing is set in stone. A bird can be refolded into a boat, a fish, a kimono, or any other extravagant vision. At other times it aches to return to its original folds. The paper begins to fray. It tires, rebels.

After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life.

Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defenses threaten to fall.

Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew, finding beauty everywhere she goes. But where is her mother and where does she go when the gardens are closed?

Harry’s purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something–or someone–who will root him more firmly to the earth.

Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed. Haunted by songs and origami birds, this novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things.


Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017 by Bloomsbury Circus
ISBN 1408878631 (ISBN13: 9781408878637)
Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

If The Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss




I would like to thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for my copy of this ARC for my honest review.

The story focuses on a handful of locals in the small mountain community of Baines Creek, Appalachia, North Carolina. It is a hash and hard life there.  A poor community with a core of people who are willing to help those deserving of it.

Preacher Eli Perkins travels through the community swapping jokes and sharing food. He is the polar opposite of his spinster sister Prudence, who doesn’t seem to have a kind bone in her body.  She is a bitter and resentful woman. Then there is Marris Jones, who is eternally good-hearted, charitable, helpful, understanding and willing to go out of her way to be understanding.  The local healing woman Birdie Rocas, some are scared of her and think she is a witch.  Probably something to do with Samuel the crow who hitches a ride in her hair, but she has a vast knowledge of plant, herbs and medicines as well as poisons.  She keeps a journal of things that happen on the mountains, she is a keeper of folklore and natural wonders.  The newly appointed teacher Kate Shaw, who on arrival learns more from the locals than she teaches.  But as the mountain has accepted her, so do the people.  But she has found a place where she feels she can settle and manages to find a place for herself.

Then there is the grumbling Gladys Hicks.  She is the Grandmother of Sadie Blue.  Gladys took Sadie in after her father had died, and left parentless.  She thinks she is world wise but is very naive.  Her world comes crashing down around her when her husband Roy Tupkin starts beating her after they have been married on ly fifteen days.  Gladys know Roy is trouble, but Sadie will not listen to her.

This story is very well written, with some very unique characters and their histories.  The way the people live, or I should say the way some people just exist gives a great depth to this story.  It shows how poor and destitute family’s are, children with no shoes and wearing burlap sacks.  If you think this is going to be a sad and depressing story, you will be wrong.  It shows how people with a simple existence have a rich community spirit for those deserving of it.  I know that would never feed them, but the goodwill and grace of others will.

It gets straight in at the beginning, with Sadie being beaten up by Roy, but that is just the hook, after that the story almost strolls along, but it still maintains its grip on the reader.  I would definitely recommend this book to readers.


A strikingly sincere portrait of a town and its buried secrets from an outstanding new voice in southern fiction.

In a North Carolina mountain town filled with moonshine and rotten husbands, Sadie Blue is only the latest girl to face a dead-end future at the mercy of a dangerous drunk. She’s been married to Roy Tupkin for fifteen days, and she knows now that she should have listened to the folks who said he was trouble. But when a stranger sweeps in and knocks the world off-kilter for everyone in town, Sadie begins to think there might be more to life than being Roy’s wife.

As stark and magnificent as Appalachia itself, If the Creek Don’t Rise is a bold and beautifully layered debut about a dusty, desperate town finding the inner strength it needs to outrun its demons. The folks of Baines Creek will take you deep into the mountains with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.



Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN 1492647454 (ISBN13: 9781492647454)
Edition Language English


Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

The Breakdown by B.A Paris


*I would like to thank Netgalley for an ARC of this book for my honest and unbiased review.*


How would you deal with living in an isolated cottage close to where a murder had just occured ?
How would you feel when you wake up in the morning, to discover the woman in the car you passed last night had been brutally murdered ?

This is what Cass has to deal with. She feels guilty that she passed this woman last night. She was parked up in a layby on an isolated road close to where Cass lives. Cass did slow down and then stop, but she never went to check.  If she had checked would the woman still be alive ? Or would she herself have been a second murder victim ?
Cass does not tell anyone that she passed the car and this guilt eats her up. She dicovers she actually knew the woman, Jane Walters. Cass had met her at a party that she and her best friend Rachel had attended, they had got on so well, that they then went on to have lunch together.
Add to this guilt, the sleepless nights, silent phonecalls, things being forgotten, and meetings being missed. Cass gradually goes into a decline of drastic proportions.

This is a well written book and i liked the characters. But i actually made a note at 20% into the book, as to why and who i thought the “baddies” were. It is unusual for me to do this, as i normally don’t work out the plot as i am reading. But the more i read the more obvious to me it became. The character of Cass did start to jar a little, but i understand that is the nature of her, and it also would have been how her husband, Matthew, and friend Rachel would have felt. There were a couple of points in the ending that did surprise me.  That being said i think it is worth reading. It would not put me off buying another book by this author.


If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…


Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: July 18th 2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Original Title The Breakdown
ISBN 1250122465 (ISBN13: 9781250122469)
Edition Language English
* This book is available to buy now.*
Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve


* Would like to thank Netgalley for my ARC of this book for my honest and unbiased opinion*

This is an emotional and inspiring story. Set in Hunts Beach, Maine. It starts in 1947 with Grace and Gene Holland and their two children. Graces best friend Rosie her husband Tim and their son.
That summer was dry and went on longer than it should, due to the drought, warnings were put out telling people to be on alert. It isn’t long before another word is on the lips of the towns folk and that is Fire. Wild fires are spreading along the coast and it is not long before the inevitable happens in Hunts Beach. WHile Gene and Tim go to help with fire defences, Grace and Rosie are left at home wondering what they would pack or do if the fire came.

When the fire starts burning the town, people panic, the air is full of shouting, car horns, ash and burning debris. Grace and Rosie grab their children and do the only thing available to them and several others, they head to the beach and hunker down in the sand with wet blankets over them hoping for the best. When they are found and rescued from the beach, the town has been burnt to the ground. They have nothing left, Rosie and Tim go to his mothers’ house in Nova Scotia. Gene has not returned, is he dead or has he just run off ?

She has always been reliant on Gene, he is the only wage earner, he takes her shopping as she cannot drive. She now has to learn how to live life as an independant single mother. What will happen to her? Will she be able to do this? Will Gene ever return ?

The transformation of Grace from the meek little wife and mother to an independant single parent is great. The little steps she achieves in her life give her a strength that she will need to get through the decisions she will have to make later in life.

This is a great book, a first for me by this author, and it will not be the last.


From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history.

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort.

The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.



Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 by Random House
Original Title The Stars Are Fire
Edition Language English
Books · Contemporary Fiction · Netgalley · Review

The idea of You by Amanda Prowse


I give this book a 5*


*I would like to thank Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing and Amanda Prowse for an ARC copy of this book for my honest and unbiased review*

This book has brought lumps to my throat on several occasions. I had heard of Amanda Prowse but had not actually got around to reading any of her books. I have to give a massive thanks for the email i recieved to tell me i had been pre- approved for this title.

This book shows how decisions made twenty four years ago would not be made in the same way today. How the support of your family can have an impact on how you feel about yourself and those around you. But nothing in life is simple, nothing goes as it should, and sometimes life has it’s own version of how your plan shall play out.

Lucy is attending a christening, it is a work colleagues baby. She is thinking about her life, she is nearly forty years old. No husband, no baby, no sleepless nights, no baby paraphernalia strewn around. But she does have a successful career, a nice spacious flat and is smart. But for Lucy she wants what other women her age have, and that is a family.

When she was with her ex Richard she brought the subject of them having a baby. He didn’t want a family and her wasn’t messing around with her crazy cousin behind her back either. After they split up, she found that he was actually going to marry said crazy cousin, and the wedding wasn’t far off.

While she is feeling sorry for herself, and by herself Jonah Carpenter introduces himself to her. They hit it off and get married and Lucy gets her husband and messy house. From here on in the story really does come into it’s own, as we are taken on a roller coaster of emotions. This story then deals with some very emotional subjects and it is done with care and honesty.


With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?


Paperback, 332 pages
Expected publication: March 21st 2017 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN 1503942333 (ISBN13: 9781503942332)