November 2 2021

Other Words For Home, by Jasmine Warga

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Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga

Title: Other Words For Home
Author: Jasmine Warga
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Verse novel. Refugee/ migrant issues.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“Hoping,
I’m starting to think,
might be the bravest thing a person can do.”

Other Words for Home is a breathtaking verse novel for middle grade readers, written with sensitivity, heart, and a beautiful lyricism that carries you from page to page.
Jude loves her family and her best friend in Syria, but when things in her hometown become volatile, she moves with her mother to live with relatives in Cincinnati. It doesn’t feel like home – it’s too fast, too loud, and the language is too different. But she finds hope in unexpected places – her ESL class, her new friends, and the school play that she might try out for. Jude finds her way in a new and unfamiliar place, trying to figure out whether home is where she has come from or where she is now. And as she finds home, she might also find herself.
@jasminewargabooks explores some heavy topics, such as racism, identity and belonging, and this book balances the depth and darkness of these experiences with a light and gentle touch. A beautiful story, beautifully written.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 184/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 31 2021

A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin

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The Earthsea Quartet, by Ursula Le Guin

Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Genre/ issues: Fantasy

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“But need alone is not enough to set power free: there must be knowledge.”

I don’t know why I’d not read any Ursula Le Guin before now, and delving into A Wizard of Earthsea this week has been a pure delight. We follow the life of Sparrowhawk, whose true name in the Old Language is Ged, and in the magic world of Earthsea true names have power. By knowing the true name of a creature or a thing you can enchant it, or control it.
As we follow Ged from childhood through troublesome adolescence, to his apprenticeship with the Wizard Ogion and his tutelage at the School of Wizards on Roke, he finds himself on a quest to defeat the shadow that has plagued him since an I’ll-advised magical pissing contest with a fellow student unleashed it into the world. And the shadow knows Ged’s name.
This book is wonderful. A short read at just 161 pages in length, it has deceptively simple linear narrative, and magnificent world building that sucks you in to Earthsea, with its archipelago of islands, complex and highly functioning trade routes, and deep respect for magic and the role of wizards. Whilst we see many villages as we travel with Ged, the inhabitants are largely left to do their own thing in the background, and our protagonist is one of only 3 characters that are given the space to grow in this right and deftly written masterpiece.
And, speaking of the writing … woah. Much of the action takes place on a boat, as you would expect from a land of tiny islands amidst an expansive ocean. This felt appropriate, as there’s a flow and a lilt to Le Guin’s prose that carries you along with it, occasionally caught in a rip as you get pulled in unexpected directions … wherever her words took me, I was happy to go.
I borrowed this book from @penrithcitylibrary, and I’ll be buying myself a copy to add to my collection, because once I’ve read the rest of the Earthsea quartet this is definitely a world I’m going to want to revisit.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 183/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 28 2021

Zenobia, by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman

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Zenobia, by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman

Title: Zenobia
Author: Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel/ picture book. Refugee issues.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“I whisper: Find me!
But I only whisper it to myself.”
Zenobia by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman is an incredibly sobering and powerful read. There are few words, but the pictures convey a story that’s heartbreaking to the extreme. Amin’s is on a boat – crowded, afraid, and not fit for the journey it’s taking across the open ocean. As it’s hit by a giant wave, she’s thrown overboard, and as she floats downwards in the salty water, she remembers how she got here. The salty dolmas her mother made, just before her parents disappeared. The quietness of her village before the tanks arrived, and her uncle came to take her away. The tears as he used the last money he had to get her on a boat to freedom. From hiding as a child playing hide and seek at home, to being invisible in a world which doesn’t see her … this is a deeply personal individual story about Amina, which shines a spotlight on the devastation and despair of the Syrian refugee crisis.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 182/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 25 2021

Hometown Haunts, edited by Poppy Nwosu

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Hometown Haunts, by Poppy Nwosu

Title: Hometown Haunts
Author: Poppy Nwosu
Genre/ issues: Short stories. YA fiction. Horror stories.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

I don’t really read horror.
Yes, I know I’ve read a lot of horror in the past month or so, but that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s October, right?
Oooh, it’s got such a pretty cover though … that’ll look lovely on my bookshelf!
Wait, Wai Chim contributed to it? And Alison Snevans??? Sigh. Fine, I’ll read it. It’s YA horror … how scary can it be?
Famous last words, Past Tamara – it can be pretty damn scary! Damn, Hometown Haunts #loveozya horror tales anthology is good! A stellar list of contributing authors, including some of my faves and some who have succeeded in scaring the pants off me in such enjoyable ways that I’ve added them to the list of people to check out. A few highlights – Slaughterhouse Boys by @redscribed made me simultaneously shudder and cry in their story about enjoying a good steak and the social construct of masculinity. @talltales_poppynwosu broke my heart with her beautiful tale of loss and disolving people, Nature Boy. @alisonwritesthings – eyes. Shudder. Such a brilliant story about bodily change through puberty with a body horror twist that still makes my skin crawl when I think about it. And, thanks to @project_lectito and @sarahepsteinbooks I’ll never again use either an Olympic swimming pool or a roadside rest stop, so thanks for that.
I feel a little remiss not mentioning all the stories individually, because there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t – well, “enjoy” might be the wrong word? But they’re all excellent. Special mention to Emma Preston’s It’s Quiet Now, a thought-provoking short comic about what happens on the streets when people are in lockdown.
Hometown Haunts is a fantastic mix of humour, wit, and thoughtfulness in 12 short stories and 2 short comics, all guaranteed* to make you shudder.
(*not a legally binding guarantee)

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 181/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 24 2021

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

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Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. YA fiction. Black lives matter. Generational trauma.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“Another thing about the Rules
They weren’t meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken

to follow.”

I thought I’d be prepared for the graphic novel version of Long Way Down by @jasonreynolds83. I read the verse novel last year and was in awe of the strength and sensitivity of the storytelling. Add the graphic illustrations by @novgorodoff, and it’s a whole added level of punch.
Will is 15. His older brother has just been shot, and the Rules say that it’s Will’s duty to get revenge. To find the man who killed Shawn and shoot him. He takes the gun from his brother’s hiding place, and gets in the elevator, pressing the button for the lobby with a plan laid out.
But as the lift descends, the doors open on each floor of the building, admitting people from Will’s past who definitely shouldn’t be there, and who all provide another perspective on the Rules.
Reynolds’ poetry is stunning, sparse and powerful, and Novgorodoff’s watercolour artwork drives this tragedy of generational trauma and gang violence home even deeper. If you’ve not read this book, I’d highly recommend it. So incredibly good, words don’t seem to do it justice.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 180/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 24 2021

The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

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The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

Title: The Lost Boy
Author: Greg Ruth
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. YA. Fantasy.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

Some mysteries are too dangerous to ignore …
The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel suitable for upper primary readers. Nate reluctantly moves into a new house and town with his family, and finds an old reel to reel tape recorder hidden in the floorboards. As he listens to the tapes, he discovers the mystery of Walt, who had lived here decades ago, and disappeared under strange circumstances. Walt and his new friend Tabitha discover that the curious tales that Walt recorded on his tapes aren’t quite as far-fetched as they might have first appeared.
Mysterious hidden worlds, an army of talking animals, and trees that aren’t quite what they seem … it’s a good solid middle-grade urban fantasy, made better by stunning black and white illustrations that sometimes take on a surreal life of their own. Worth the read just to check out the artwork!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 176/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 23 2021

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

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Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Fantasy. Queer fiction.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“You can’t just go round murdering people. There are rules, Nimona.”
I’ve had Nimona by @gingerhazing on my shelf since last Christmas, and it’s been a joy finally getting to read it! Nimona volunteers herself as sidekick to Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain with a vendetta against his childhood best friend Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who defeated him in a jousting tournament and is the “hero” of the kingdom. Blackheart is determined to prove once and for all that Goldenloin and his pals at the Institute of Law Encorcement and Heroics aren’t as good as they seem, and with Nimona’s shapeshifting ability and her healthy disregard for authority, he may just succeed this time.
This is so much fun, and I really enjoyed the subversive and irreverent take on heroes and villains. The “who’s actually the good guy?” trope isn’t really new, but this brings a fresh take on it, with integrity uncovered in some unlikely ways, with a sweet (although not entirely unexpected) “queerly ever after” ending which warmed my heart. Stevenson’s writing and art are both fantastic, and they really capture the voice of rebellious and impulsive Nimona perfectly. A great addition to a high school library graphics shelf, and it’ll be staying on my bookshelf, too, for future heartwarming reading purposes.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 175/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 16 2021

Eric, by Terry Pratchett

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Eric, by Terry Pratchett

Title: Eric
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre/ issues: Fantasy.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“Hell, it has been suggested, is other people.
This has always come as a bit of a surprise to working demons, who had always thought that Hell was sticking sharp things into people and pushing them into lakes of blood and so on.”
Eric is book 9 and one of the shorter books in the #Discworld series, and it was just the dose of delight I needed today to keep me company on a drive up the coast and an afternoon on the couch.
Eric is a Faustian parody, in which the 13-year-old demonologist, Eric Thursley, summons a demon to get his three wishes – he wants the mastery of all kingdoms, to meet the most beautiful woman who ever existed, and to live forever. Unfortunately the demon he summons is not actually a demon at all, but Rincewind, who became trapped in the Dungeon Dimension after the events of Sourcery (book 5). Eric at first doesn’t believe Rincewind, but they then end up on an adventure which results in his wishes being granted … kind of, sort of, in true Pratchett style.
I had hoped to get through all of the Discworld series this year, and given that I’m less than a quarter of the way there I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but I am very much enjoying this journey. I’m discovering books that I thought I’d read but I hadn’t, and rediscovering old favourites – and through all of that, I’m reminded just what a genius Terry Pratchett was. I miss him.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 174/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 15 2021

Julia and the Shark, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Julia and the Shark, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Title: Julia and the Shark
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Family/ relationships. Mental health. 

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“I am ten years and two hundred and three days old. I had to ask my dad to work that out for me, because numbers are not my favourite. Words are. You can make numbers into words, but you can’t make words into numbers, and so words must be more powerful, mustn’t they?”
Sigh. Have I already said I had a favourite middle grade book for the year? Whatever it was, I think it has some serious competition. Julia and the Shark is written by @kiran_mh and illustrated by @tomdefrestonart, and it’s a stunning book. Julia tells us the story of the summer she spent at a lighthouse with her father, who was trying to fix the lights, and her marine biologist mother, who was trying to find a shark. Not just any shark, though. One older than the trees, moving though the water slowly for centuries, and possibly holding a secret that might help people, if only they could unlock the mysteries it holds. Julia loses her mother, though, and she finds the shark. Don’t worry. That’s not spoilery.
There is something deeply poetic about this novel, pure and passionate, and at once both deeply profound and deeply simple. If I had read this as a child, I’d have resonated deeply with Julia. As an adult, I feel strongly connected to both her father, struggling to hold everything together for the people he loves, and her mother, who (spoiler alert!) is dealing with some mental health issues.
Content warnings: this book depicts a parent with bipolar, and the impact of their extremes on the people around them, including an overdose of pills which is presented with a profoundly sensitive touch. The emphasis is very much on the power of acknowledging mental health issues and seeking appropriate help.
I know, it sounds heavy. It’s really not. It’s such a beautiful narrative, supported and enhanced by the incredible art of de Freston. I am in awe of this book. I’ll be reading it again.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 173/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 15 2021

Horrostör, by Grady Hendrix

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Horrostör, by Grady Hendrix

Title: Horrostör
Author: Grady Hendrix
Genre/ issues: Horror.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

I’m not generally a horror genre fan, but the concept and design of this book was just too appealing to pass up. Horrostör by Grady Hendrix may remind you of a certain furniture and homewares store that specialises in flat pack furniture and an iconic Scandinavian aesthetic, but Orsk is definitely NOT IKEA. It is, according to Amy, a low-rent IKEA knock-off. And working here is not how she envisaged her life would pan out. But now, in an effort to keep her boss happy so he’ll approve her transfer, she finds herself on a clandestine overnight watch shift with 2 other employees, tasked with making regular inspections of the store and making sure that nothing weird happens. What they’re expecting is to hopefully find whoever has been trashing the store overnight. What they find is far more chilling.
This is a quick, engaging read. It takes place largely over the course of one night, and is a pretty simple read, without a lot of complexity in its backstory or world building. For those who are true horror aficionados, this may be horror-lite for you. For me, who deliberately read this in daylight hours, and will be rethinking any future IKEA trips, it was just creepy enough, thank you very much. The real highlight of this book is the design, from the iconic cover art, to the incorporation of furniture story advertisements to mark the beginning of chapters. The narrative itself also critiques the consumerist philosophy of major corporations as they attempt to force customers to follow the path of least resistance. If you need a good read for Halloween, but don’t want to be too scared out of your wits, this could be the book for you!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 172/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara