It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

With the weather being so cold and wet in my corner of Australia over the past week, I welcomed being forced to stay indoors with my reading pile. I did brave the cold one night to observe the International Space Station zooming across the sky, but since then have only ventured out to the rubbish bin or to check the rain gauge. Over the week end we've had 26 mm, with more rain predicted for the rest of the week.

On the reading front, while I managed to finish one book, South of Darkness, John Marsden's first novel for adults, I'm struggling with A Spell of Winter which is disappointing as I'd enjoyed other novels by Helen Dunmore. Has anyone else struggled with this novel?

My other reading choices are going very well. I'm half way through The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins. Once again that lovable scoundrel from The Devil in the Marshalsea is in dire straits and I'm keen to see how he extricates himself from his latest predicament. On the other hand maybe he doesn't!

I also began Spilt Milk by Amanda Hodgkinson, author of 22 Britannia Road which I read and enjoyed last year. So far so good, but the fate of Thomas Hawkins has the greater pull.

Wilkie Collins' The Dead Secret is still in the running to be read next and I have added Welsh author Tracy Rees' debut novel, Amy Snow, to my reading pile. I couldn't resist the tag line on the front cover "Jane Eyre meets The Young Victoria ..."

What I Read Last Week

South of Darkness by John Marsden

Thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch is a bag-and-bones orphan in London in the late 1700s.Barnaby lives on his wits and ill-gotten gains, on streets seething with the press of the throng and shadowed by sinister figures. Life is a precarious business. When he hears of a paradise on the other side of the world a place called Botany Bay he decides to commit a crime and get himself transported to a new life, a better life. To succeed, he must survive the trials of Newgate Prison, the stinking hull of a prison ship and the unknown terrors of a journey across the world. And Botany Bay is far from the paradise Barnaby has imagined. When his past and present suddenly collide, he is soon fleeing for his life once again. A riveting story of courage, hope, and extraordinary adventure.

What I'm Reading Today

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

Catherine and her brother Rob do not understand why they have been abandoned by both their parents, or know where their mother has gone. They are brought up by servants in the house of their grandfather, an Irishman who made his fortune somehow and is known in the neighbourhood as ‘the man from nowhere’. The children cling to each other because they have no-one else, but when they grow up their sibling love becomes incestuous. As the world outside moves towards war, Catherine and Rob are trapped in their own conflict. But little by little, the spell of winter that has held Catherine begins to break, and she starts to free herself from the weight of the past. 

Spilt Milk by Amanda Hodgkinson

1913. Unmarried sisters Nellie and Vivian Marsh live an impoverished existence in a tiny cottage on the banks of the Little River in Suffolk. Their life is quiet and predictable, until a sudden flood throws up a strange fish on their doorstep and a travelling man who will change them forever. 
1939. Eighteen-year-old Birdie Farr is working as a barmaid in the family pub in London. When she realises she is pregnant she turns to her mother Nellie, who asks her sister to arrange an adoption for Birdie's new born daughter. But as the years pass Birdie discovers she cannot escape the Marsh sisters' shadowy past - and her own troubling obsession with finding her lost daughter will have deep consequences for all of them...

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

Spring, 1728. A young, well-dressed man is dragged through the streets of London to the gallows at Tyburn. The crowds jeer and curse as he passes, calling him a murderer. He tries to remain calm. His name is Tom Hawkins and he is innocent. Somehow he has to prove it, before the rope squeezes the life out of him. It is, of course, all his own fault. He was happy with Kitty Sparks. Life was good. He should never have told the most dangerous criminal in London that he was 'bored and looking for adventure'. He should never have offered to help Henrietta Howard, the king's mistress, in her desperate struggles with a brutal husband. And most of all, he should never have trusted the witty, calculating Queen Caroline. She has promised him a royal pardon if he holds his tongue but then again, there is nothing more silent than a hanged man.

What I Hope to Read Next

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins was the first great detective novelist. His dark and complex mysteries influenced the work of other writers, such as Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens, with whom he developed a close personal friendship. Swinburne found his work worthy of serious criticism, and T. S. Eliot credits him even more than Poe with the invention of the modern detective novel and the popular thriller. Before such works as "The Woman in White," "The Moonstone," "Armadale," and "No Name," Collins demonstrates the full range of his talents for intricate plot and dramatic suspense in "The Dead Secret," one of his earliest novels. Like much of Collins's work, "The Dead Secret" explores the consequences of a single, hidden act. The Cornish mansion Porthgenna harbors the secret of such an act, one that has ruined the life of the servant girl Sarah Leeson. This same secret lies hidden for fifteen years until the heiress to Porthgenna, Rosamund Treverton, returns and exposes it. Her detective work may reveal the truth, but her revelation of a long-forgotten crime could mean disaster for her and the entire estate. Wilkie Collins's brilliant characters, suspenseful plots, and piercing look into Victorian-era society are on full display in "The Dead Secret."

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

Abandoned on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy is taken in at nearby Hatville Court. But the masters and servants of the grand estate prove cold and unwelcoming. Amy's only friend and ally is the sparkling young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia tragically dies young, Amy is devastated. But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift. A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. A life-changing discovery awaits ...if only she can unlock the secret.


  1. I'm way behind in my blog reading this week! I'll be curious what you think about Amy Snow. I read it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Amy and Aurelia are both great characters. A Spell of Winter wasn't my favorite of Dunmore's novels either. A bit dry, and I remember feeling very distanced from the characters.

    1. I'm glad you said that about A Spell of Winter. I have no emotional attachment to any of the characters and the story appears to be going nowhere. I'm not sure I'll continue reading it.

      As for Amy Snow - I've read the first few chapters and I'm hooked. It's a cold winter's afternoon here and I'm going to stay indoors reading more.