It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I thought I might combine this week's post with next week's as I was way behind due to my lazy Easter week-end. However, once written I decided  against that and here it is albeit a few days late.

Last week was a great week for me. I read two books I was very excited about, Wildwood and The Anchoress, and one great ghost story, This House is Haunted.

Easter Sunday was spent quietly. The weather was very chilly and miserable: a good day for staying indoors. So I opted to watch a DVD I had borrowed from the library, The Crimson Field. 

It is set during World War I at a British Military Field Hospital and focuses on four new additions to the nursing staff and how they settle into life at the hospital.

The cast includes a few familiar faces such as Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey), Suranne Jones (Scott & Bailey) and Hermione Norris (Kingdom).

Six hours later I had to admit that I had enjoyed my afternoon's viewing, especially Suranne Jones' performance as Sister Joan Livesy. The ending of the last disc promised a continuation of the story. However, I was disappointed to find that the show had been axed and there would not be a second series. Just as well I like to read!

What I Read Last Week

Wild Wood by Posie Graeme Evans

There are no accidents. There is only fate. 1981. Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she is all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Di's wedding all her certainties are suddenly blown aside by events she cannot control. Finding herself in hospital, unable to speak, she must write everything down. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she beings to draw places she's never been to, people from another time. Rory Brandon, Jesse's neurologist, is intrigued. He knows the place she is drawing - Hundredfield, a castle in the Scottish Borders - and Jesse demands to see it. Unbeknown to them all, Jesse carries ancient knowledge that Hundredfield unlocks. She is key to the mystery that haunts this wild place, and she has a place in the legend of the lady who walks the forests ...

This is the second novel I've read by Posie Graeme Evans, the first being The Dressmaker which was a historical novel set in Victorian England, so I wasn't sure how she would handle the dual time frame. This was done well by the 20th century story being written in the third person and the 14th century part in the first person. Both stories held my attention, but when in Jesse's story I was impatient to get back to Hundredfield and the Scottish Borders. The connection between past and present is neatly revealed at the end. I enjoyed this book very much.

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader

Set in the twelfth century, The Anchoress tells the story of Sarah, only seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a small cell, measuring seven paces by nine, at the side of the village church. Fleeing the grief of losing a much-loved sister in childbirth and the pressure to marry, she decides to renounce the world, with all its dangers, desires and temptations, and to commit herself to a life of prayer and service to God. But as she slowly begins to understand, even the thick, unforgiving walls of her cell cannot keep the outside world away, and it is soon clear that Sarah's body and soul are still in great danger......

I didn't know how this novel would hold my interest, given what I thought was a very restrictive setting, but it did. Sarah's story is sad, though not depressing. The pace is slow and gentle, but filled with enough conflict to propel the story to its very satisfactory conclusion. Cadwallader's knack for descriptions that evoke the senses certainly added to my enjoyment of this debut novel.

I will be writing more indepth reviews of both Wildwood and The Anchoress.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

1867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night. As she makes her way across the station platform, a pair of invisible hands push her from behind into the path of an approaching train. She is only saved by the vigilance of a passing doctor. When she finally arrives, shaken, at the hall she is greeted by the two children in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There are no parents, no adults at all, and no one to represent her mysterious employer. The children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, a second terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong. From the moment she rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence which lives within Gaudlin's walls. Eliza realises that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall's long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past.

This is my kind of ghost story - a house with a dark past, a malevolent presence, strange children,
and a disturbing ending. I'm looking forward to reading the other novels by John Boyne in my reading pile.

What I'm Reading Today

I'm behind in reading books for the various challenges I signed up for, so have selected this week's reading from those titles.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

A young woman's struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village. In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of lead miners and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection. So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction.

This novel forms part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.

The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down. Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again. When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other. With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves? An enchanting, witty novel about the unexpected situations life throws at us, and how love and friendship help us through. Written with heart and infused with the seductive scents of bergamot, Indian spices, lemon, rose and caramel, it's a world you won't want to leave.

This novel looks a little out of place here on my blog. I rarely read contemporary fiction, but I nominated to read The Tea Chest  as part of my commitment to the Aussie Author Challenge 2015 .

Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite by Anthony Trollope

Since its first appearance in 1870, "Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite" has been regarded as one of Trollope's finest short novels. Trollope wrote the book with what he considered to be more 'romance proper' than his other works; his object here was to tell a single 'pathetic incident' rather than to portray 'a number of living human beings.' This is a tale of a conscientious father vacillating between a desire to marry his daughter to a cousin destined to inherit the family title, and his fear that the cousin, reportedly a scheming wastrel, in unworthy of her. "Sir Harry Hotspur" has been called Trollope's saddest story, and at the same time the superlative exception to the rule that Trollope's long, comfortable books are his best.

Anthony Trollope is an author I have not read before, though I intend to read The Belton Estate for the Reading England 2015 Challenge. When I spotted this other novel by Trollope on the library shelf, its length approximately 250 pages, I thought it would be a great introduction to this classic author.  April 24th, 2015,  marks the bicenntenary of Trollope's birth and Karen at Books and Chocolate is hosting a celebration of his life and works this month, details here.

What I Hope to Read Next

Gallipoli Street by Mary Anne O'Connor

An Anzac tale of three families whose destinies are entwined by war, tragedy and passion.
At 17, Veronica O’Shay is happier running wild on the family farm than behaving in the ladylike manner her mother requires, and she despairs both of her secret passion for her brother’s friend Jack Murphy and what promises to be a future of restraint and compliance. 
But this is 1913 and the genteel tranquillity of rural Beecroft is about to change forever as the O’Shay and Murphy families, along with their friends the Dwyers, are caught up in the theatre of war and their fates become intertwined.
From the horrors of Gallipoli to the bloody battles of the Somme, through love lost and found, the Great Depression and the desperate jungle war along the Kokoda Track, this sprawling family drama brings to life a time long past… a time of desperate love born in desperate times and acts of friendship against impossible odds.
A love letter to Australian landscape and character, Gallipoli Street celebrates both mateship and the enduring quality of real love. But more than that, this book shows us where we have come from as a nation, by revealing the adversity and passions that forged us.
A stunning novel that brings to life the love and courage that formed our Anzac tradition.

The Absolutist by John Boyne

September 1919: Twenty-years-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a clutch of letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will during the Great War. They trained together. They fought together. But in 1917, Will laid down his guns on the battlefield and declared himself a conscientious objector, an act which has brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family. The letters, however, are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He holds a secret deep within him. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage. Whatever happens, this meeting will change his life - forever.


  1. Year of Wonders is one of my all-time favorite books. Geraldine Brooks does a great job with research and pulling the reader in. The entire concept of this story, and the fact that it may have actually happened is amazing.

    1. I've read about the villagers of Eyam in Derbyshire who quarantined themselves rather than spread the plague. This novel puts the human face to this historical fact. A great read so far.

  2. I have a copy of Wild Wood I'm eager to get to. The dual-period time-slip type of story is just the thing I like. I'm also tempted to join the Australian Women Writers' Challenge even though I'm not Australian - I've already read three books this year that would fit and will likely read more, especially with Wild Wood on the TBR and Kate Morton's book set to appear later this year.

    The Absolutist sounds fabulous. I've read other books by John Boyne but not that one.

    1. I hope you get to Wildwood soon. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

      I'm amazed at how many good Australian women authors there are writing historical fiction that I didn't realize were Australian. Being part of the AWW challenge makes me pay more attention to author bios. You're well on your way to completing the first level! Did you manage to get a copy of Gallipoli Street after all?

      I read that Kate Morton has a new book coming out. There will be a stampede for that one!

    2. Kate Morton is my favorite author, and the minute her new book arrives, I'll be settling down on my couch with instructions for nobody to disturb me for the next few days!

      I plan on signing up for the AWW challenge this week. It will give me even more reason to read more of the authors I already enjoy reading. I have a copy of Gallipoli Street sitting on my Kindle at the moment - it was easy to obtain that way, and cheaper than the print would have been. I look forward to your thoughts on it!

    3. I'm surprised how little information there is about Kate Morton's new book. Even her website has no "tempters" yet.

      I'm hoping to start Gallipoli Street this week, once I've caught up on a few book reviews.

      Pleased you've decided to sign up for the AWW challenge. As always, I'll look forward to reading your reviews.

  3. Year of Wonders is one of my all time favourites - I hope you enjoy it too.
    I'll be curious to hear what you think of the Anchoress.

    Lots of bloggers are reading the Trollope series at the moment. I would have loved to have join in but my TBR pile is screaming for attention!

    Since Sheila is off-blog right now I will post my Monday link here Brona's Books

    1. Just finished Years of Wonders. Loved it even though the ending was a little unusual.

      Good luck with your TBR pile!