A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone #Review #BlogTour

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Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series.

Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators… When patriarch Jim dies, it’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another woman, suggesting that Jim wasn’t the husband she thought he was. Hannah’s best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.

As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything…

A compelling, tense and shocking thriller and a darkly funny and warm portrait of a family in turmoil, A Dark Matter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, marking the start of an addictive new series.

Review

After finishing this book, my first thoughts were this book is bloody fantastic and the second, delight that it is the start of a new series.

So why is it so special?

There is a strong and I mean strong, ensemble cast of female characters who shine from the pages. They are expertly crafted and an absolute joy to spend time with. Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are a rarity in fiction; they are the central characters in a story that reflects both their differing ages, but also the strength and diversity of their lives. From the pitch perfect description of Dorthy’s grief, her revaluation of her marriage and life, Jenny’s self destructive life and young Hannah’s search for answers about her friends disappearance and relationship with both her mum and nan, we have a portrait of a family consumed by grief, yet at the same time, the strength and love that binds them together. The Skelfs are utterly believable and captured my heart and soul as the story progressed through layers of dark comedy and danger. This is a tale about the things that bind us as families, how the ebb and flow of love pushes us apart, but always pulls us together. They are remarkable women, you fee; their pain, their love for each other, their reliance on this network that binds them and you wish, or I did and still do, that I could just spend some time with them. So real, you could almost reach into the pages and take a seat beside them.

Of course, this is also a thriller and a perfect one at that; there is both danger and twists that hit you like you have been sucker punched and struggle to catch your brief as the shock subsides. You need not worry if you’re after a thriller that will knock you off your feet, because this one will. But for me, it is lifted up into the, I wish I could award it a sack full of stars catergory, by those moments in the novel that deal with their grief at the death of patriarch Jim. Within the first few pages you become a witness not only to their loss, but a stunning depiction of his funeral and cremation that rocked my reading world, so intense, so real did it feel, that I had to take a step back before I carried on reading. It is simply like no other book I have ever read. Just for those few pages and Dorothy’s search for answers, I would happily pay any price the publisher asked of me. It is simply mesmerising and rewarding on every level.

Add to that a mystery disappearance to be solved, a husband accused of cheating, three incrediable women and you have a story, that will rock you reading world, make you laugh, cry, gasp in shock, but best of all, it will

My thanks to author and the publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

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Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh. Follow Doug on Twitter @doug_johnstone and visit his website: dougjohnstone.com

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Book Covers As Art – The Song of Achillies by Madeline Miller.

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles.
Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny.
Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

I am the first to admit that a am a book cover geek. My little reading heart is always attracted to a beautifully thought out cover, one that reflects the power of the story, that tells you something about the tale within.  To me if the publisher has belief in the story being told, they will reflect that in the cover they give it.

So when I saw an article about book covers as art, I instantly wanted to start a series of blog posts covering this very topic.

It didn’t take any thought to decide which cover I should start with. The Song of Achilles is one of my all time favourite reads and from the moment I first saw the cover, I loved it. It is both beautiful and it mad an immediate impression on me as I entered the bookshop.

This is without a doubt a peace of art I would hang on my wall if anyone ever sold it as a print. Cover designers are artists without any doubt and should be celebrated as such!

“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
― Madeline Miller, quote from The Song of Achilles

About the author 

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She also studied in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel. Website: http://www.madelinemiller.com

Top Eleven Reads of 2019 – An amazing reading year of reading. #FavouriteReadsof2019

It is never easy to pick a favourite list of books read during any year, but this year it has been particularly hard. I have been incredibly lucky to read some stunning novels as shown by my favourite reads series of 2019 that have been published on Booksaremycwtches throughout December.

Those posts reflects all the books I have read this year and loved, so why not look them up?

But it is a tradition I like to keep up and so here is my top eleven reads of 2019.

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Photographer of the Lost Cover

 

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Favourite Book Series of 2019 – Soho Noir series by T J Hunter #SohoNoir #LGBT+

I just had to do a special one off favourite reads of 2019, for the best series of books I have read in quite some time.

The Soho Noir series is stunning.

It features a wonderful cast of LGBT+ characters.

It has been written by an author of immense talent.

The stories are funny, emotional and are exciting.

Set during the 1980s they reflect the style of the period and give a voice to LGBT community of the time.

Everyone should read them.  EVERYONE.

 

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SOME RELATIONSHIPS ARE JUST MURDER
It’s 1985, and Joe Stone is excited to be joining his old school friend, and lifelong crush, Chris, for a long weekend in London’s Soho—home to a vibrant, developing gay scene, and a million miles from the small town where Joe and Chris grew up.
When Chris is found brutally murdered, the police write his death off as just another rent boy fallen foul of a bad hook up. But Joe knows his friend was killed deliberately, and joins forces with former police detective, Russell Dixon—Chris’s flatmate—to find out why.
Spiralling debt, illicit sex, blackmail, spurned lovers and hard-nosed gangsters all play their part, but who among the celebrities, fashionistas, drag queens, ex-lovers and so-called friends is Chris’s killer?
A noirish whodunnit set in 1980s London, with all the big hair, electro-pop, shoulder pads, police discrimination and lethal killers that the era had to offer.
TAINTED LOVE IS THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES.

 

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A FEMME FATALE WITH A POINT TO PROVE
It’s the summer of 1985 in London’s Soho, and Joe Stone is settling into his new life living in the heart of London’s developing gay scene.
When Danny Devraux—the compère they’ve hired to host their charity ball, The Frock Show—is found dead backstage, it falls to Joe and his friend and flatmate, Russell, to figure out what happened.
All they have to go on is a broken stiletto found near the scene, and the briefest glimpse of a mystery woman fleeing the club. But who was she? And why did she kill the most loved man in cabaret?
Past secrets, bent coppers, drag queens and old lovers all play their part in this noir murder mystery, set in the 1980s.
WHO’S THAT GIRL? IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES OF COSY CRIME STORIES.

 

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LOOSE LIPS COST LIVES.
It’s 1986, and Adam Cave, lead singer of the pop sensation Loose Lips, is struggling to stay in the closet, especially as his group is going through a messy split, and media speculation about the reasons behind the break up are high.
Joe Stone has been assigned to Adam as a runner for the behind-the-scenes, warts and all expose of the recording of the band’s last album, and an unlikely friendship begins to form.
But when the band’s manager, Jack Eddy, is found dead in Adam’s hotel room in what looks like a sex game gone wrong, Joe turns to his flatmate, Russell, to help him clear the pop star’s name, and keep his secret.
Russell, meanwhile, has a secret of his own—he’s just been for a test, the results of which may change his life forever.

 

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THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE NEVER RUNS SMOOTH
It’s 1987, and Soho is in the grip of another hot summer. While working part-time in The Red Lion, Joe finds himself agreeing to help a notorious gangster search for her missing girlfriend.
Antonia The Gecko Lagorio is daughter to the ruthless but ageing gang boss, Tony The Lizard Lagorio. When her girlfriend, Charlotte Fenwick, goes missing, Antonia turns to Joe for help, believing her to have been kidnapped by a rival gang.
Charlotte Fenwick is daughter to multi-millionaire, Charles Fenwick—who also happens to be one of Freddie Gillespie’s bigger clients. Keen to keep any hint of a scandal out of the public eye, Charles Fenwick had already asked Freddie to recruit Russell and Joe to help him find his daughter discreetly.
With both of them on the case, Joe and Russell find themselves trying to stop a turf war between the two rival gangs while uncovering all manner of dark secrets about the missing heiress and her troubled life.
Meanwhile Freddie Gillespie has a run in with an old foe that could see him lose both his job and his relationship with Russell.

 

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THE SHOW MUST GO ON

It’s 1988. A mild summer after a turbulent political year for LGBT rights. While working as an assistant to a successful Theatre Director, Joe Stone finds himself unwittingly embroiled in another murder investigation.
Lexi Goode, a young, up and coming actress has her bright future cut short when she is found murdered in her exclusive top floor apartment in the posh end of Soho. Knowing that the police are as racist as they are homophobic, Joe and Russell inevitably take it on themselves to investigate what happened to the young woman.
Along the way they discover illicit liaisons, a string of admirers, a secret life that was helping to pay for the glamorous lifestyle no young actress should have been able to afford. But who would want to kill Lexi?
Finding the answer to that question puts Joe in mortal danger and a young police officer in an awkward position.
KILLER QUEEN IS THE FIFTH IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES.

 

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A CHRISTMAS PARTY WITH MURDER ON THE MENU

It’s Christmas Eve, 1988 and Russell and Joe are among the guests at a lavish party in a celebrity mansion in the heart of Soho.
Television presenter and national treasure, Nathan Bentley has a formidable reputation for legendary parties—with wall-to-wall celebrities, drink flowing, drugs, dancing, ill-tempered Cordon-Bleu chefs laying on the food and world famous musicians providing the entertainment. What could be better for a bunch of waifs and strays on Christmas Eve?
But when a body is found in the courtyard garden before the dessert has been served, questions begin to fly. Did he fall or was he pushed? And who of the many guests and hangers-on had either the means or motive for murder?
Hidden pasts and present jealousies all threaten to destroy a life carefully built in this festive crime caper set in the heart of London’s Soho.

SMALLTOWN BOY IS THE SIXTH IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES.

Stay Mad Sweetheart by Heleen Kist #FavouriteReadsof2019

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THERE’S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INNOCENCE AND GUILT. AN EVEN FINER LINE BETWEEN JUSTICE AND REVENGE.
Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.
Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.
Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.
As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them.
But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?

Review

People often ask me why I still love Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, citing it as portraying women in an age where they had such little power over their own lives? I was a teenager when I read it and fell in love with this determined brave heroine. Bronte had given us a female lead with an indomitable spirit, who courage knew no bounds. Stay Mad, Sweetheart especially in the female characters, gives us a engrossing thriller, with twists and turns that keep you reading, cheering them on, at the same time provides readers the same type of female character that Jane Eyre championed, determined, passionate and brave. It’s the type of literature I want my god daughters and niece to grow up and read, because it gives a voice to women that refuse to be silenced or side-lined and does it within an exciting, thrilling story.

About the author 

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Throughout her life, Heleen Kist has been fondled, patronised and ordered to smile by random men. So she wrote ‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’, a feminist tale of revenge, out November 19th 2019.Whilst her professional knowledge of technology start-ups fed the novel’s setting, its theme of insidious harassment and discrimination required no research: it is familiar to all women.
Heleen was chosen as an up and coming new author at Bloody Scotland 2018. Her first novel, ‘In Servitude’ won the silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA and was shortlisted for The Selfies awarded at London Book Fair.
A Dutch strategy consultant living in Glasgow and married to a Scotsman, she’s raising their son to be a good man and their daughter to kick ass.
Heleen hopes you enjoy her writing, and would love to hear from you on twitter (@hkist), Faceboook (@heleenkistauthor) or Goodreads. You can also sign up to her newsletter on http://www.heleenkist.com.

 

A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone #FavouriteReadof2019

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Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series.

Review

I can’t say a lot because I’m due to review this book as part of the blog tour in January, but having read it a few weeks ago, I couldn’t not include it in my favourite reads of 2019.

It is funny, touching, full of a stunning ensemble of female characters and seriously one of the best books I have read this year.

I can’t wait to publish my full review in January.

About the author 

Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His seventh novel, The Jump, was published by Faber & Faber in August 2015. Gone Again (2013) was an Amazon bestseller and Hit & Run (2012) and was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. Smokeheads (2011) was nominated for the Crimefest Last Laugh Award. Before that Doug published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008). His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.

In September 2014 Doug took up the position of Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Doug was writer in residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. Doug is currently also working on a number of screenplays for film and television. He is also a mentor and manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy.

Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released two solo EPs, Keep it Afloat and I Did It Deliberately.

Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars.

He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. #FavouriteReadsof 2019

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Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today. That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another. Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
A shocking, mesmerisingly original and pitch-black thriller, Nothing Important Happened Today confirms Will Carver as one of the most extraordinary, exciting authors in crime fiction.

Review

It’s dark yes, its thrilling indeed, a thought provoking and provocative thriller, but what makes it different, is the place it took me as a reader! I was scared reading it! I normally avoid books that scare me, that force me to face my inner demons, that take me to dark places I would prefer to avoid. Nothing Important Happened Today took me to those places, it left me feeling shaken and chilled, it made me sit back and think, not many books do that.
It made for a read that will forever stay with me, that is so perplexing, so haunting, I may feel tormented by it forever. As A Song For Achilles will always be the book that broke my heart, this novel will always be the book that troubled me and that is a magnificent thing to say about any book. It made me feel and I adored it for that.

About the author 

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Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

The Snow Killer by Ross Greenwood #FavouriteReadsof2019

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‘Fear the north wind. Because no one will hear you scream…’
A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.
Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.
As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…
The first in a new series, Ross Greenwood has written a cracking, crackling crime story with a twist in its tale which will surprise even the most hardened thriller readers. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride.

Review

The sense of atmosphere. Ross Greenwood gives us a story in The Snow Killer that feels threatening and claustrophic, by using a killer, who only attacks their victims when the city is blanketed by snow. It’s inhabitants trapped not only by the weather, but by a killer they can’t see and fearful of the next snowfall. It makes the story feel closed it, oppressive, chilling and as a reader that panic which simmers below the surface of the story, made me feel exposed and vulnerable. It made for a compelling read, one I refused to be torn away from, virtually consuming it in a few short days.

About the author

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Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and he lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.
He found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually when things had gone wrong. It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. He still a little stunned by the pace of it now.
Fifty Years of Fear book was started a long time ago but parenthood and then after working in sales management all my life, he randomly spent four years as a prison officer. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed which gave me the opportunity to finish the book as he unable to get back to sleep, completing it in the early morning hours.
He now written five further books. His second book, The Boy Inside, was picked up by a publisher, and Lazy Blood is also out. All his books are thought provoking, and are told with a sense of humour.
The first three books are stand alone, however, some of the characters cross over, and you can see how at times, their lives overlap.
Abel’s Revenge is something a bit different. It’s a modern day love story set against the backdrop of an escalating serial killer. There’s a whodunnit element to it, and some smiles along the way.
Shadows of Regret was inspired by his time on the women’s side of the jail in Peterborough, and analyses the close relationship between victim and villain. You won’t have read a book like it.

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller. #FavouriteReadsof2019

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One rainswept winter’s night in 1809, an unconscious man is carried into a house in Somerset. He is Captain John Lacroix, home from Britain’s disastrous campaign against Napoleon’s forces in Spain.
Gradually Lacroix recovers his health, but not his peace of mind. He will not – cannot – talk about the war or face the memory of what took place on the retreat to Corunna. After the command comes to return to his regiment, he lights out instead for the Hebrides, unaware that he has far worse to fear than being dragged back to the army: a vicious English corporal and a Spanish officer with secret orders are on his trail.
In luminous prose, Miller portrays a man shattered by what he has witnessed, on a journey that leads to unexpected friendships, even to love. But as the short northern summer reaches its zenith, the shadow of the enemy is creeping closer. Freedom, for John Lacroix, will come at a high price. Taut with suspense, this is an enthralling, deeply involving novel by one of Britain’s most acclaimed writers.

Review

This novel is absolutely stunning. I felt an emotional connection that was quite affecting to Lacroix, who though is not perfect, comes across as kind and compassionate. All the characters are beautifully drawn, so well that the story feels like an ensemble of finely tuned personalities. Each gives to the drama a unique and powerful presence and they all in some way left an impression on me. The story though spanning over a more than one period of times flows seamlessly and is full of tension and you feel as if you are there in 1809 living the journey with them all, so perfect is the historical detail.

Superb and masterful.

About the author

Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. He has since written five novels: CASANOVA, OXYGEN, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, THE OPTIMISTS, ONE MORNING LIKE A BIRD, and PURE, which won the Costa Book of the Year award in 2011. His most recent novel, THE CROSSING, was published by Sceptre in 2015.

 

The Edge Of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier #FavouriteReadsof2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of January.

Today it’s The Edge Of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier 

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In the inhospitable Black Swamp of Ohio, the Goodenough family are barely scratching out a living. Life there is harsh, tempered only by the apples they grow for eating and for the cider that dulls their pain. Hot-headed Sadie and buttoned-up James are a poor match, and Robert and his sister Martha can only watch helplessly as their parents tear each other apart. One particularly vicious fight sends Robert out alone across America, far from his sister, to seek his fortune among the mighty redwoods and sequoias of Gold Rush California. But even across a continent, he can feel the pull of family loyalties…

Review

I admit this book had been on my bookshelf for quite some time. I’m not sure why, because I love the author’s writing, but recently I pulled it off the shelf and I loved it.  It is a remarkable tale about a family eking out a life in the Black Swamp of Ohio and the effect waring parents have on their young children. It is also a story about Robert who manages to escape this toxic environment. His life is one of adventure, but he never forgets where he was running from. Tracey Chevalier manages to capture the violence and claustrophobia of a marriage that becomes poisonous and the stunning landscape of Robert’s journey across America.

About the author 

Tracy is the author of 10 novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.