Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Check in Four – forty-five to sixty.

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My fourth check in, and most current one as of the 12th of August, 2018, takes me to sixty books for the year, and in July I managed to read an entire Kate Forsyth series, as well as historical fiction, an #OwnVoices book, female focussed books, and one with  fascinating link to ancient history that I adored, as well as memoir about race, feminism and religion that unpacked how various identities can often be at conflict and how this affects you as a person and how you see the world, but also looked at how various aspects of one’s identity can inform a world view and understandings.

From Cromwell’s England to the desert hospitals of World War One, a haunted house and survivalists, dragons and China, and memoir, along with a good dose of fantasy, this list is as diverse as the others, with a large dollop of Kate Forsyth, whose books are always delightful.

My next post of this nature will begin with the latest Kensy and Max adventure, and from there, who knows what else will come?

Books forty-six to sixty

  1. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart
  2. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1)
  3. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)
  4. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3)
  5. The Cat’s Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4)
  6. Children of the Dragon: Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  7. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele
  8. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5)
  9. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn and Interview
  10. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6)
  11. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson
  12. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer
  13. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
  14. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel
  15. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

From here, there will be many review books to come, some feminist fairy tales, crime, a whole mix – anything could be read and that is what is so enjoyable about the challenge and these posts – getting to see what I have read so far, and where it all fits in.

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Book Bingo fifteen – A Book Set More Than 100 Years Ago

Book bingo take 2

Kate Forsyth’s Chain of Charms series has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. Between university up until eighteen months ago, reviewing for publishers and most recently, writing quizzes for Scholastic Australia, I’ve been trying to squeeze them in, and have found time lately, so that’s what I have done.

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

Book bingo take 2

UnknownWhen the family of Emilia and Luka Finch are taken to jail by Coldham, a representative of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, they are sent on a quest by their grandmother to reunite the six charms that were scattered between six gypsy/traveller families many years ago. With only a bear, a dog, a monkey and a horse to keep them company, Emilia and Luka must first evade capture and ending up in jail with their family – and then go in search of the five other families who hold the charms and bring all six together.

I loved this start – and am hoping to have the rest of the series read very soon – in fact, I have just started book two. Set in the late 1650s, this comes into the book set more than 100 years ago by A LOT. Kate often uses history as a backdrop to her novels and she has done it exceptionally well again, right down to the author notes that go through her research and the times that her novel is set in.Kate_Forsyth

My longer review is much more in depth, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series takes Emilia and Luka as they seek to help their family.

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The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6) by Kate Forsyth

the butterfly in amber.jpgTitle: The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published:

Format: 1st July 2008

Pages: 266

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… And the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

28th August – 3rd September, 1658:
Luka and Emilia travel to London to find the last of the Graylings tribe, who has married a Puritan lawyer and turned her back on her past. As well as all the perils of the capital city, the children must escape the vengeful Coldham, and still get to Kingston-Upon-Thames in time to rescue their families. But then, on the anniversary of his greatest victory, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell is mysteriously stricken down… Will everything change? And can the children save their family in time?

The thrilling conclusion to the Chain of Charms series.

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Butterfly in Amber marks the finale of The Chain of Charms series, and it reaches its climax as Luka and Emilia reach London, the capital and the heart of Parliament, and where Cromwell is destined to die within days of them arriving. As they set foot in London, they are pursued by Coldham, and arrive at the home of the Countess of Dysart, whose loyalties are uncertain until she agrees to shelter the children as they make their way through London, searching for the last member of the Grayling family, who has married a Puritan lawyer, turning away from her past. Here, they will meet family they never knew they had, be reunited with a friend from the past, and have to continue to try and evade Coldham as Cromwell is struck down on the anniversary of his greatest victory – all things Emilia has seen as they travelled across the country. With the charms reunited at last, can Emilia and Luka save their family in time?Kate_Forsyth

In the final instalment, Luka and Emilia, now in London, must use all their luck and abilities to evade Coldham, the Roundheads and pickpockets – as they seek to reunite the charms, save their family and meet up with the rest of the traveller families that they have encountered on their quest for the charms. As they venture onwards, sacrifices must be made – and they are always on watch, in case they fall into the wrong hands. Fate will bring an old ally to them and set forth a series of events that culminate in the finale of their quest, and the resolution written down in history about the end of Cromwell’s reign and the return of peace to England.

Kate Forsyth’s series  finale is as exciting and engaging as the previous five books, and brings together all the threads of story, plot and characters that have been popping in and out since the beginning of the story. I read it in two nights, eager to see what happened and how it was all resolved, and was caught up in the history, adventure and magic faced by Emilia and Luka on their perilous journey to find the charms and reunite them to save their family. She combines magic and history to create a believable  and inspiring world, where there are good characters, like Emilia and Luka, the evil characters such as Coldham, and the characters who, at great risk to their own safety and lives, help Emilia and Luka such as Tom Whitehorse, Countess Dysart and the many others who sheltered Emilia and Luka, and helped them get away from Coldham and find the charms on their journey.

I had so many favourite characters, especially the crew from the previous two books that included the Royalist Duke, a highwayman, Tom Whitehorse, and a Catholic Priest, whose company kept them alive and showed that people from all walks of life wanted to end Cromwell’s rule and were willing to do whatever they could to achieve it – including the Catholic Underground helping Luka and Emilia, proving the complexity of issues in the world can be seen from many angles, and is dealt with exceptionally well in children’s books.

I have now completed my read of this series, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I have all the other Kate Forsyth books I have read. Onto the next adventures!

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The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5) by Kate Forsyth

the lightning bolt.jpgTitle: The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 10th November 2007/1st September 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 220

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The final three paperbacks of the award-winning six-book series by Kate Forsyth.

Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live.

The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… and the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

27th August 1685:
Sussex was the first county secured by the Roundheads because of its iron foundries. Here in the Weald, the Smith tribe are working for Parliament, making cannons and weaponry. They have prospered under Cromwell’s rule, and have no interest in old gypsy charms. And it is here where Luka and Emilia must find the fifth charm, a finely-wrought lightning bolt, and amidst the smoke and noise of the Horsmonden foundry, the gypsy children run into old friends… and old enemies.

Winner of Aurealis Awards’ Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn the fifth book of the Chain of Charms series, Emilia and Luka find themselves in Sussex, where they need to find the Smith family of travellers, and the one who holds the lightning bolt charm – the fifth in the magical chain of charms that Emilia believes will bring the Finch family luck and see them released from the prison that Coldham and the Roundheads have put them in – for singing and dancing in the marketplace. As they venture towards London, they are separated from those who helped them in the previous book, and reunite with Fairnette and her family, the Smiths who hold the lightning bolt. Not only must they get the charm, but earn the trust of Fairnette’s father, and face betrayal from the Hearnes, whom they thought they could trust in The Silver Horse. In the foundry at Horsmonden where the Smiths now work, they will face fire and smoke, and make that one step closer to London and saving their families.

The intensifying plot gets more interesting as the story goes on, and as Emilia and Luka encounter people who help them – from the Catholic Underground to kin who live a new life and somewhere in between – the rebels, the Dukes who wish to change things. The children are helped because these people can see the changes coming – and seeing two young children alone appears to be hard for some characters to comprehend – so Emilia and Luka appeal to their humanity, and Emilia’s ability to see the future has begun to be apparent and become a part of the storyline, where she can foresee what is to come and uses it to her advantage to get help. The pace at which these books have been moving is excellent and engaging – no need for meandering or slow moving scenes that complement her other books for adults – pure action and adventure for kids and kids at heart.

As always, Kate Forsyth’s characters are layered, and intricate, and through each book, as a reader, I discovered something new about these beloved characters, Emilia, Luka and Zizi, and those new characters they meet that ensure their journey can continue, in contrast to those trying to stop what they are doing. Mixed in is Coldham and his stubborn, singlemindedness that he has to catch Emilia and Luka at all costs, a constant threat that ensures the pace of the novel moves quickly and fervently as Emilia and Luka seek to save their family from hanging.

Of all the characters, Coldham is perhaps the most loathsome, because he is so pinpointedly focussed on getting rid of Emilia, Luka and all like them, that there is little room for much else to happen with him. He is the kind of character you do not want to encounter, and Kate Forsyth has written him as exquisitely as any of her other characters.

The weaving in of the history of rule under Cromwell, and the English Civil War, and the treatment of travellers like Emilia and Luka, and their kin makes the story powerful and grounded in a time and place where some things were different, but the treatment of those different to the ruling class has not really changed – the way some people are treated illustrates that there will always be degrees of hatred and discrimination – in a world where the understandings we have today were not present, Emilia and Luka fought hard, and I’m keen to see where the next book takes them.

In the penultimate instalment of the Chain of Charms series, Luka and Emilia start to have hope, that maybe they will finally be able to free their family from prison and live as they have for their entire lives and be who they are. It is a beautiful series that I am so close to finishing and hope to finish by the weekend.

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The Cat’s Eye Shell (Chain of Charms #4) by Kate Forsyth

the cats eye shell.jpgTitle: The Cat’s Eye Shell (Chain of Charms #4)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 11th November 2007/1st September 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 245

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The fourth exciting book in the six-book series by bestselling author, Kate Forsyth.

Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms – a golden crown, a silver horse, a butterfly caught in amber, a cat’s eye shell, a bolt of lightning forged from the heart of a falling star, and the flower of the rue plant, herb of grace. The queen gave each of her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain of charms was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.
The Cat’s Eye Shell – Book 4, 20-24th August 1658

Having acquired the first three charms in the quest to secure their family’s freedom, Luka and Emilia flee into Sussex with soldiers hot on their heels, in company with a Royalist duke, a Catholic priest, a highwayman and young Tom Whitehorse. Only the Catholic underground can help them all escape – but this is a most dangerous religion in the time of Puritan rule. And Emilia and Luka still must find the elusive gypsy tribe of the cat’s eye shell, who, it seems, have turned to smuggling…

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

As Emilia and Luka travel towards Sussex with the duke, priest, highwayman and Tom from book three, they venture into territory of the Catholic Underground in their search for the elusive gypsy tribe that holds the cat’s eye shell charm – though nobody is certain where to find them or indeed, if they will find them. But there are people threatening to stand in their ay, and despite the Catholic Underground taking them to safety, they must lie low during the Sabbath – everyone must – to avoid suspicion and stay out of the prisons and away from the gallows. But as they hide with Lady Mary and her family, Emilia and Luka are unsettled – they suspect someone is betraying their group. Whilst at Lady Mary’s they meet Milosh, a fellow Rom and the elusive owner of the cat’s eye shell they have been looking for. Caught up in the charms, saving their family and a growing plot to overthrow Cromwell, Emilia and Luka must find a way to negotiate with Milosh for his charm – and when they find out who he is helping, they are shocked – he has turned to smuggling – and helping the Catholics against the Puritan rule, for it is dangerous to be Catholic or Rom in these times.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe fourth book in the series shows the intersection of two persecuted groups and the sacrifices they made, and the risks they put themselves in during Cromwell’s time. In a time when many people would have turned Emilia and Luka away, Lady Mary and her family the Royalist Duke, Catholic Priest, highwayman and Tom Whitehorse are there to help them – or at least accompany them for safety as far as possible. For these people, the goal is to restore King Charles II to the throne and put an end to the Lord Protector.  For Emilia and Luka, who rules is of no consequence as long as they can free their family and live their lives of music and travel – and it is perhaps here where the other characters begin to understand, or they at least have a mutual understanding that helping each other will be the best for all.

Now over the half-way point with this series, the tension is growing, as the deadline for Emilia and Luka’s quest to save their family draws closer and closer. The fear they have at losing all that is precious to them rests on this quest and getting help from the Hearne tribe to save their family. But it also rests on Emilia’s insistence that the charms have a magic quality about them that once reunited, will save their family and all Rom. It is here where the conflicting emotions and feelings Luka has towards his cousin’s approach comes out again – and the climatic ending of the novel leaves them with four charms, and an ally in Milosh, who will help them towards their next goal and charm in Sussex with the Smith tribe, and the charm shaped like a lightning bolt.

This series gets better with each book, and as Emilia and Luka move towards London and their final destination, whilst the focus is on them, the story occasionally shifts to the jail that Cromwell’s men are holding their family in, and shows the reality of what they are going through as Emilia and Luka are on their quest – truly tugging at the heart strings and having me hoping that Emilia and Luka will be successful, which will become clear when I finish the series.

Another excellent story from Kate Forsyth.

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The Herb of Grace (Chain of Charms #3) by Kate Forsyth

Cyan Magenta Yellow BlackTitle: The Herb of Grace (Chain of Charms #3)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 10th November 2007

Format: Paperback

Pages: 246

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms. The queen gave each her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.

It is the fifth year of the Lord Protector’s rule, and not safe nor seemly to love bright colours, nor music, nor dancing, nor magic, nor any of the things that the gypsies most loved, and which made them who they were. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong – they have been thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms – then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

15th-19th August, 1658:
Luka and Emilia must travel to the New Forest to find the Wood tribe, whose charm is a rue flower, the herb of grace. Its power is that of plants and herbs – which can both heal and poison.

On the way, the two children tangle with an impoverished widow, the thief-taker Coldham, a highwayman and a witch, and find themselves caught up in a Royalist plot to restore King Charles II to his throne.

Winner of Aurealis Awards for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseAgain we catch up with Luka and Emilia Finch as they travel the English countryside as they seek to reunite the magical charms of the six gypsy clans, and free their family from prison and their fate at the noose. Having left the Hearne tribe with the silver horse, Emilia has had to trade her beloved Alida for it, and they’ve left their bear, Sweetheart with Sebastien for safety – with only themselves, their dog, Rollo and monkey Zizi, they hope that it will be harder for Cromwell and his men, and in particular. Coldham, to find them. They must search for the elusive Wood family – with only the name of an inn owner, Gypsy Joe, to go off.

Again, they meet with Tom Whitehorse, the young boy whose home their family once worked in, who has mysteriously appeared wherever they have been since their family has been arrested, followed quickly by Coldham and the men of the Lord Protector.  Emilia and Luka are convinced Tom’s presence has been what has tipped Coldham off about where to find Emilia and Luka. As Gypsy Joe hides them after they’ve stumbled across Lady Anne and her servant, who have helped them bathe, feed and have a decent rest, they discover the truth behind Tom’s constant appearances where they are, and what is really going on – and they then find themselves caught up not only in the quest to reunite the charms and save their family – but a Royalist plot to overthrow Cromwell and restore King Charles II to the throne.

The Herb of Grace marks the half-way point in this series, and the stakes are getting higher. As the month slinks towards closure, Emilia and Luka are sorely pressed for time as they travel on foot to find the rest of the charms that they hope will change their family’s luck and restore King Charles II to the throne. I’m just about to start The Cat’s Eye Shell, where Emilia and Luka, together with Tom Whitehouse, a Catholic Priest, a highwayman and a Royalist Duke – seeking the restore the throne are in search of the elusive gypsy family and tribe in possession of the cat’s eye shell.

Here, the children must track down a witch – who holds the charm and the sacrifice they must make is even more wrenching than the last ones – but it is something that has to be done to move along with their quest – lest she use her black, dark magic against them, and tamper with what they are trying to do – this character was creepy and someone I don’t think I would be keen to meet alone. she did bring an intrigue and shadow to the story that illustrated that it wasn’t only Cromwell’s side that had evil on it – that good and evil. good and bad can be found in many places, and the characters that show shades of grey and are willing to work together are going to be effective in the culmination of the entire story.

With each book, this series gets more intriguing, and now that Emilia and Luka seem to have a band of allies, I hope things will turn out well for them – we shall see what happens, and how the true history behind the fiction inevitably plays out by the end of the sixth book in the series. As the series appears to take place over a brief period of time, it has been moving rather quickly – a decent pace for what needs to happen and where it needs to happen. I’m loving this series – they are quick reads for me, as they are short but full of fun and action, and intrigue – where Emilia and Luka have to be cautious with who they trust.

The thread of each book has been pleasingly consistent with a plot line that is delightful and easy to follow, mixed in with a few off to the side events that have been slowly building since the first book – it keeps the reader’s interest and ensures that they are learning as they read.

Another excellent offering from the Master Storyteller, Kate Forsyth!

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The Silver Horse (Chain of Charms #2) by Kate Forsyth

the silver horse.jpgTitle: The Silver Horse (Chain of Charms #2)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 10th November 2007

Format: Paperback

Pages: 212

Price: $9.99

Synopsis:Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms – a golden crown, a silver horse, a butterfly caught in amber, a cat’s eye shell, a bolt of lightning forged from the heart of a falling star, and the flower of the rue plant, herb of grace. The queen gave each of her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain of charms was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.

Book Two: The Silver Horse 13th-14th August 1658
Emilia and her cousin Luka have the gypsy crown and are travelling with their menagerie in search of the Hearne tribe. They hope that this family, to whom they will soon be related, will surely help release their kin from gaol. Luka and Emilia find the Hearnes horseracing on the Downs above Epsom. But Emilia must compete to win their support. Will she have to give up her beloved mare in exchange for the Hearne family’s charm – a small silver horse? And can they escape Coldham again?

Book Two in the exciting new six-book series by bestselling author, Kate Forsyth.

Winner of the Aurealis Awards’ best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe second book in The Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth is The Silver Horse, and it picks up right where The Gypsy Crown left off, with Emilia and Luka finding the Hearne family and seeking to make an exchange or deal for the charm that the matriarch – Janka Hearne – holds: a silver horse. Emilia and Luka must find a way to get the charm, and stay together whilst avoiding the thief-taker, Coldham. As they evade capture, Emilia agrees to ride Alida – the filly she’s raised herself – in a race to earn money for Felipe Hearne and if she wins, she will get to take the silver horse charm – that Janka believes has brought her family all their good luck. With several close calls with Coldham and his men, Emilia and Luka find that they cannot trust anyone – not even Tom Whitehorse – the son of the family who they’ve worked with for years. What will Emilia give up so she can reunite the chain of charms and what deal will she make to save her family?

Kate Forsyth has delivered again – an engaging story trimmed with historical fact, with characters running the spectrum of humanity and communicating the injustices and discrimination against people like Emilia and Luka whilst maintaining an authenticity to the period that shows she has done immaculate research. Kate’s approach to researching her books shines through on every page and enriches the experience – putting her fictional characters and situations into an historical setting that resonates clearly and with a life of its own.

Much like in The Gypsy Crown, Kate Forsyth has managed to show what people like Emilia and Luka were subjected to, creating an empathy for them, and having characters on both sides whom you’re never sure you can like or trust, but who in the end, aim to do the right thing, the moral thing. Even if the moral and ethical thing to do is illegal. In The Silver Horse, the Hearne family – Felipe and Cosmo, and a stable hand – Dicky – show that they are willing to do the right thing to help Emilia and Luka, even though they take some convincing.

The pacing is very similar to The Gypsy Crown, and ensures that the reader is captivated throughout the novel and is learning about the history of Oliver Cromwell as they read. Indeed, the scene is set from the first page of the first book, and the mood of discomfort of the time, yet gives hope that the children will achieve their goals. If anything, history tells us what happened to Cromwell and those who supported him. What this series also shows is that fear of what we do not know, and fear of what is different has never changed – that it happens in many incarnations and to many people throughout history. The powerless are given a voice in this series, and this is effective as it allows readers to glimpse what the other side must have gone through, and not just the side with the power.

Another fabulous read from the delightful Kate Forsyth – book three is about to be started now!

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