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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Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook by Warner Bros with Jody Revenson

diagon alley.jpgTitle: Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook

Author: Warner Bros with Jody Revenson

Genre: Film Guide, Harry Potter, Children’s, Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 5th July 2018

Format: Hardback

Pages: 48

Price: $27.99

Synopsis:Diagon Alley is a cobblestoned shopping area for wizards and witches, and it was Harry Potter’s first introduction to the wizarding world. On this bustling street, seen throughout the Harry Potter films, the latest brooms are for sale, wizard authors give book signings and young Hogwarts students acquire their school supplies – cauldrons, quills, robes, wands and brooms.

This magical scrapbook takes readers on a tour of Diagon Alley, from Gringotts wizarding bank to Ollivanders wand shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and beyond. Detailed profiles of each shop include concept illustrations, behind-the-scenes photographs and fascinating reflections from actors and film-makers that give readers an unprecedented inside look at the beloved wizarding location. Fans will also revisit key moments from the films, such as Harry’s first visit to Ollivanders when he is selected by his wand in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Harry, Ron and Hermione’s escape from Gringotts on the back of a Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

Destined to be a must-have collectible for fans of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook also comes packed with removable inserts.

~*~

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The latest companion book to the Harry Potter series, specifically related to the movies, is a movie scrapbook of Diagon Alley, its various stores and how the street, exteriors and interiors were created for the series of eight movies that began as a series of books in 1997. With the recent release of the 20th anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, this movie scrapbook complements its release and will become a good shelf companion.

Starting at the Leaky Cauldron, and ending with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, the book is interactive, with maps, and pictures, stickers, and pieces of wizarding money peppered through the book, to illustrate the visions from the books, and how they ended up being translated onto film, as well as where inspiration came from: Tudor times, Georgian and Victorian times, and Dickensian illustrations. The Wizarding World is shown as being from a distant time and place, untouched by modernity – ensuring the magic remains intact – just as readers would have imagined it when reading the books, and just as I did – Diagon Alley could be a mishmash of various architectures from Tudor times to Victorian times, all imbued with the magic used to create the buildings.

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As each new movie guide or character comes out, a new layer of information and enjoyment is added to the series for fans new, and old. These fun and quick reads can be dipped in and out of as well and used as you watch the movies to identify various aspects of Diagon Alley and keep an eye out for them as they watch. It is an exciting and fun book for the whole family to enjoy.

Each companion book to the Harry Potter series – whether related to the books or the movies enriches the experience, and this one is no exception. I enjoyed reading it and will enjoy revisiting it, either after watching the movies or during them, to pick up on the subtleties that I may have missed in previous viewings. As there are so many things to explore, these guides are the perfect way to discover or rediscover these things and fully appreciate the complexity of the books and movies.

Diagon Alley is shown in the book from the beginning of the series to the end, from light and airy to dark, and dingy, a world that has been destroyed during war time, to accompany the darkening themes and moods of the books and films. Diagon Alley is central to the Wizarding World, in both the books and the movies. It gives readers of the books and those who enjoy the movies a chance to see behind the scenes of how the sets the most well-known areas of Harry’s world were created in a creative, fun and interactive way for all ages.

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The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms #1) by Kate Forsyth

UnknownTitle: The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms #1)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 10th November 2007

Format: Paperback

Pages:202

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.

It is even worse for the Finch tribe – they have been thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are thirteen-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka, who have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. 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…

Book 1: The Gypsy Crown:
9th August – 12th August 1658

Maggie has given them the first charm – an old gold coin – but Luka and Emilia must escape the brutal thief-taker, Coldham. With a horse, a monkey, a dog, and a huge brown bear in their train, it is hard to travel secretly as they flee across the Surrey countryside. With a little bit of luck – or, as Emilia believes, magic – they manage to escape, but Coldham will not give up so easily.

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

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseI have had this series on my shelf for a few years, and between finishing studies and reviewing for publishers, finding time to read them has been tight – thankfully, I am for once, on top of my requests, with a couple directly received from authors to go which will hopefully be up within the next two weeks.

To start, I adore anything Kate Forsyth writes – and The Gypsy Crown, which starts the Chain of Charms series, is no exception. Set during the turbulent days of Oliver Cromwell’s rule over England in the 1650s, Emilia and Luka Finch are sent on a daring quest across England to reunite a chain of charms –  a crown (coin), a silver horse, a herb of grace, a cat’s eye shell, a lightning bolt and a butterfly in amber – that was once split between six traveller/Rom/gypsy families – all three are used throughout the book to refer to the characters and to reflect the attitudes of the time in a genuine and authentic way – the Finches, their family who hold the crown, the Hearnes, the Wood tribe, an elusive tribe who holds the cat’s eye charm, the Smiths and the Graylings. Each family, or tribe, holds a charm, and uniting them will hopefully help their family and gain their release from prison.

Emilia and Luka have the crown – but to start gathering the rest of the charms, they must escape Coldham – responsible for rounding up their family and other thieves. But they also have a bear, a dog, a monkey and a horse with them, making travel harder. But as they run across Surrey, they will embark on a journey that will change their lives.

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Kate Forsyth writes her historical fiction books for adults and children so that the well-researched facts meld seamlessly with the fictitious characters and plot that is engaging, informative and fast-paced. There are no lags, and the intrigue of what is happening and the quest for the rest of the charms. This series for children has an exciting start, filled with mystery and glimpses of the past, with echoes and foreshadows of centuries of discrimination against many groups including Emilia and Luka’s people – as they are hunted by Coldham. It allows readers to explore history in an educational and enjoyable way, and Kate Forsyth has done an excellent job at showing the prejudices of Coldham whilst maintaining respect for Emilia and Luka.

I’m about to start the second book, The Silver Horse, and hope to have the entire series read soon.

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Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr

swallows dance.jpgTitle: Swallow’s Dance

Author: Wendy Orr

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 27th June 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Leira’s family flee to the island of Crete just before a huge volcanic eruption destroys their island and sends a tsunami to where they thought they had found safety. Another thrilling adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

I wonder if the first day of Learning is always like this – do the girls on the hill always feel the ground tremble under their feet?

Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess when her world is turned upside down. A violent earthquake leaves her home – and her family – in pieces. And the goddess hasn’t finished with the island yet.

With her family, Leira flees across the sea to Crete, expecting sanctuary. But a volcanic eruption throws the entire world into darkness. After the resulting tsunami, society descends into chaos; the status and privilege of being noble-born reduced to nothing. With her injured mother and elderly nurse, Leira has only the strength and resourcefulness within herself to find safety.

A thrilling Bronze Age survival story from the acclaimed author of Dragonfly Song.

~*~

Ancient history, and in particular the Bronze Age and the Minoans, seems to be a period of history that novelists and authors don’t always use as inspiration, so it was a joy to be able to read Leira’s story.

Leira is a member of the Swallow Clan, a priestess to be living on Thera around 1625 B.C.E. Just as she begins her Learning to enter the world of a priestess, and eventually marry, Thera is rocked by an earthquake, and Leira’s world is shattered. Her family flees to Crete, and on the journey, her father enlists her help in trade and taking goods to market – where she begins to think about the seal stone her father discussed making for her. But all their dreams are shattered upon arrival at Crete, where they must work to survive, and no longer enjoy the privileges of their former life. They are refugees, fleeing the volcanic eruption that tore the middle of the island of Thera out, and caused a tsunami that would take many lives, and create the homeless refugees like Leira, and eventually, lead to the legends of a lost city called Atlantis.

Using the archaeological evidence and any other information available written in Greek, and translated or by historians who have excavated Thera and Crete, as well as the well-preserved frescoes of the Minoans, Wendy Orr has recreated the disaster that decimated Thera and that began the decline and end of the thriving Minoan civilisation on Crete.

Leira’s struggles are real – she is in a new world, without anything and thrust into things she doesn’t understand and has never done before. She is caring for her mother, injured in the earthquake that led to the volcanic eruption, and she has the woman who has worked for her family for years, Nunu, to help her and guide her as she adjusts to the new life. Nunu gives advice on what to do, and about the realities of their new life, but helps Leira understand – she doesn’t abandon Leira and her mother, seeing them as family.

AWW-2018-badge-roseSet in a time that is sometimes forgotten, and whose recorded history is uncertain because the language has not been translated yet, Swallow’s Dance is about a lost civilsation and its refugees seeking help, and being treated as slaves, sneered at and made to feel unwelcome, even though they are fleeing something that nobody could ever have predicted or prevented. It is perhaps even more interesting to read given the way refugees can and sometimes are treated in the world today still, illustrating that nothing has really changed, but that there are also good people, like Andras, the young guard Leira meets, and the women who work in the craft area, making pots, far from where she began in the fishing village and the purple works – who will help people when they need it most.

I really enjoyed this book – having studied the Minoans at school and in particular, Thera, it sparked my interest immediately and the history I knew informed my reading of this book, and helped me build Leira’s world.

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Other Worlds 2: Beast World by George Ivanoff

Beast worldTitle: Other Worlds 2: Beast World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Steampunk

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 203

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Xandra finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
She and her brother are sucked through . . .

Into a crazy world that looks like steampunk London. Except in this world there are no humans – only animals. Xandra and Lex encounter rhino police, armadillo housekeeping staff, rodent inventors and even a lion on the throne. Here humans are the endangered species!

Will Xandra and Lex survive Beast World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

~*~

Continuing the Other Worlds series, Xandra and Lex Volodin are on a school excursion when they get sucked into a painting in the museum. Xandra’s wheelchair is left behind – and once in the new world, they encounter a steampunk London – where animals rule, and live, and where humans are relegated to myths alongside unicorns and Basilisks. Here, Xandra must explain her muscular dystrophy, and get help from Nikole Telsa, a coypu, who is an inventor, and Archie, a friendly llama, to foil a plan by a carnivorous tortoise in a world were even tigers are vegetarians. Lady Mimsy is after Queen Victoria – and Lord Grimsby is after her crown – so tigers can rule instead of lions. Whilst Xandra and Lex are in this world, they must work to stop Grimsby and Mimsy before they can go home, and back to their lives in their world.

Book two of the Other Worlds series, also one I wrote a quiz for, is so far my favourite of the series. I loved the steampunk world, and I adored Telsa and Archie – they were adorable, brave and worked with Xandra and Lex nicely. Like Perfect World, Beast World shows diversity and difference, and puts a spin on the way portal worlds are portrayed. This unique and fun story has animals in clothes as Lords and Ladies in a Victorian London setting, and uses the dynamics of the human world in the animal world to illustrate how different people will do anything to attain their goals. a fun story, and I hope other people enjoy it as much as I did.

I loved Xandra because she didn’t let her disability define her, but she still struggled with the constraints of it, especially once through the portal without her wheel chair. The exoskeleton she uses in Beast World gives her a freedom that the chair doesn’t, yet she shows that whatever she uses to get around, she’s just as capable as anyone else – a powerful message to send, and a fabulous character sending it.

Other Worlds 1: Perfect World by George Ivanoff

perfect worldTitle: Other Worlds 1: Perfect World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Science Fiction, Children’s books

Publisher: Random House Australia/Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages:192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Keagan finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
He steps through . . .

Into a weird world of clones who are obsessed with perfection. But this world isn’t as perfect as it seems. Keagan is determined to return home – all he has to do is find a way out of the city, survive the Dumping Ground and outsmart a bunch of rogue clones!

Will Keagan escape Perfect World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

~*~

Keagan enjoys playing video games with his best friend, Ravi, reading and creating websites, but on the day his mum asks him to go and buy her some pickles while she is out, he stumbles across a shop called Matilda’s Collectibles, and he is drawn to it like a magnet – as though something within is summoning him to step inside and discover the miraculous things inside. What greets him is a dark and dingy store, complete with glass cabinet and a number of clichés he’s encountered in writing – including the strange old woman – Matilda. Within moments, he grabs a falling computer chip disguised as a key, and is transported into a sci-fi world from his computer games – Perfect World – were everything is perfect – five clones for each generation, and where the clones who have imperfections are sent to the Dumping Ground. Here, he is quarantined, studied and dumped through a garbage chute, where he meets Eone and the rest of the Refuse. He falls into a plot by one named Befour to start a revolution and take over Perfect World. Can Keagan stop Befour, teach the clones the lessons they need to learn and get home before his Mum notices he is missing?

This is another book I received from Scholastic to write a quiz for – and it is aimed at 8 years and older, up to upper primary. The first in a series of four, Perfect World explores ideas of perfection and imperfection, sameness and differences, and diversity. It is the kind of book that any child or reader can relate to and put themselves in Keagan’s shoes. A fun read, it encourages being yourself and not doing what everyone else does just to fit in – the clones of Perfect World are the antithesis of what Keagan believes but, in a world, where perfection and being the same goes so far, the generations speak in unison – which Keagan finds quite unnerving.

What I enjoyed about this book was that Keagan remained true to who he was, but at the same time, used his knowledge to translate his sense of self, and individuality into terms that the clones could understand – at least the ones not trying to take over things.

Keagan is the key to teaching the clones about diversity and friendship – and his relationship with Eone is quite adorable, as is their journey to discovering diversity, and divergence and enlightenment – and hopefully, this book will show kids that it is okay to be who you are and that you don’t have to fit in with the crowd.

I hope the kids who get to read this enjoy this book, and get as much out of it as I did.

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Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Illustrated by Craig Smith

grandpa me poetry.jpgTitle: Grandpa, Me and Poetry

Author: Sally Morgan, illustrated by Craig Smith

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Omnibus/Scholastic

Published: 1st May, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 52

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Melly likes poems that rhyme with words like frog, bog, doggedy-dog.

And when the school holds a poetry competition, Melly has her eye on the prize, with a little bit of inspiration from Grandpa.

~*~

One of Melly Wilson’s favourite things is poetry, and her favourite person is her grandfather. While Melly is at school, Grandpa is in hospital, and she is learning about poetry – which is something that connects her with Grandpa. Together, they come up with rhymes, and poems that don’t rhyme for school. When a poetry competition is announced, Melly is excited: she loves words that rhyme and wants to write a poem that will stun her teacher and win the competition, and perhaps she will – with some inspiration from Grandpa.

I was sent this book by Scholastic as part of a quiz writing program and decided to also review it here.

AWW-2018-badge-roseGrandpa, Me and Poetry is about Melly, who enjoys poetry – but only if it has sounds, beats and repeats – and if it rhymes. She doesn’t like poems that don’t rhyme, but her teacher does. Melly is a cute character, and the book is told from her perspective, as she worries about her Grandpa, who is in hospital, her Mum and writing the perfect poem to please her teacher and win a prize at Family Day at school. But will Melly have her family there?

It is a story about a family, told from the perspective of the daughter and her love of poetry, and how she uses it to express herself at an uncertain time, with a nice resolution at the end of the story that brings a smile to the face of readers.

As well as being cute, it was also funny. Melly’s rhymes were a highlight and will delight readers as they read it and enjoy the sense of rhyming and rhythm that Melly enjoys too. From her cheeky rhymes in class, to her poem that doesn’t rhyme, and her final poem about her Grandpa, Melly’s poetic journey is funny, cute, and enjoyable. and has a great main character, who is full of life but also, shows that everyone has worries and obstacles that they need to overcome.

A great book for children starting to read chapter books and novels, or for reluctant readers, and also a great book to learn to read with, this is a highly enjoyable book for all ages from one of Australia’s fabulous Indigenous authors.

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