November 4 2020

More bedtime stories for cynics

Bedtime stories for cynics

More bedtime stories for cynics

Title: More bedtime stories for cynics
Narrator: Nick Offerman
Genre/ issues: Short stories. Fairytales for adults.

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 got this anthology of quirky bedtime stories on audible a while ago, and had been listening to them before lockdown but then got sidetracked with pandemic stuff. Today, I had to do a bit of driving, so I finally finished the last few stories. The highlight of this for me were the hilarious sardonic introductions to each story by Nick Offerman, but the stories themselves were also entertaining, and read by some great celebrity narrators. This would be a great collection to have cued up if you need something to listen to on a commute but don’t want to start a full length novel.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 77/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 26 2020

Cassandra Speaks, by Elizabeth Lesser

Cassandra speaks

Cassandra speaks, by Elizabeth Lesser

Title: Cassandra speaks: When women are the storytellers, the human story changes
Author: Elizabeth Lesser
Genre/ issues: Non-fiction. Gender. Women’s role in storytelling and history.

I grabbed this audiobook after this book was announced as the first pick for book club running along with the Amanda Palmer podcast. Cassandra Speaks looks at the history of storytelling by and about women – the narratives that are shaped by history, and how they impact how women see themselves in their own and other people’s stories. I’ve been listening to it on and off over the past couple of weeks, and today’s final chapters dealt, appropriately, with imposter syndrome.
I enjoyed what I remember of this book, but I’m coming to realise that when I’m listening to non-fiction I tend to disconnect sometimes in ways that I don’t do when listening to fiction audiobooks. I don’t think my review of this book does it justice – if you’re interested in feminism, the role of women in shaping the narrative of history, and how women and re-evaluate and revalue their own position in the story of life, this might be a good read for you.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 74/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

September 28 2020

Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman

Anxious people

Anxious people by Fredrik Backman

Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre/ issues: Adult contemporary fiction. Mental health. Relationships. Family.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“It ‘s such an odd thing, how you can know someone so perfectly through what they read.”
I’ve learned that when people whose bookish opinions you respect from different facets of your life recommend the same book to you within hours of each other, you listen. And boy, am I glad I listened when both some from my real life and my TikTok circles reviewed this book and sung its praises. I’ve been listening to the audiobook over the past few days, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so -seen- by a book.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is beautifully sweet and sensitive comedy about a bank robbery that wasn’t, a hostage situation that isn’t, and a group of people who are brought together by life, death, and circumstances beyond their control.
This book is magnificent. It’s my first by Backman, and it won’t be my last. Powerful, affirming, and poetically passionate, which is no mean feat for a novel in translation.
“We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too. All of our tomorrows.” Beautiful, and what I needed to read right now.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 62/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 25 2020

Stamped from the beginning: the definitive history of racist ideas in America

Stamped from the beginning

Stamped from the beginning, by Ibram X Kendi

Title: Stamped from the beginning
Author: Ibram X Kendi
Genre/ issues: Non-fiction. Race. Racism. History.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

 

I started this book by Ibram X Kendi months ago – I had ordered the YA version but it’s still not arrived, and in the meantime I found the audiobook available for free on Spotify. I highly recommend it – a thoughtful and comprehensive examination of the history of racist ideas in America, and how and why anti-racist actions and sentiments often fail. It’s taken me a long time to get through it because I found it really thought-provoking, and oftentimes wanted to just let some ideas sit for a bit before I moved on.
Hot tip for listening to the Spotify audiobook version- pay attention to where you’re up to. If you don’t, and then go off and listen to something else, you won’t be able to find your place when you come back to it. Even bigger hot tip – do NOT accidentally bump the shuffle button. It makes things VERY hard to follow.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 54/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 26 2020

Sandman sundays

Sandman

Sandman, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Supernatural. Mythology. Fantasy.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

Sandman is arguably one of Neil Gaiman’s most well-known and wide-ranging creations. A stunning comic series, it’s been republished in a few different formats, and the Omnibus edition is one of the most treasured items in my collection. My ex-husband gave me volume one as one of the last gifts of our relationship – and, it must be said, as one of the only gifts he gave me that showed he knew what mattered to me. The second volume was a gift to myself, shortly after our divorce was finalised and I decided to treat myself to something I really wanted. And volume 3? Well, my wonderful partner gave me that for Valentine’s Day this year. So, it’s safe to say that the whole collection is meaningful to me in more ways than just the epic and fantastic story it contains.

The wonder that is Dirk Maggs is responsible for another fantastic incarnation of Sandman – the audiobook adaptation. It’s sensational, and I’ve been listening to parts of it each Sunday since it came out, and reading along with the comics. So far I’ve listened to the chapters that would have comprised Volume 1 and 2 of the graphic novel editions – Preludes and Nocturnes (#1-8 of the comics) and The Doll House (#9-16). I’m counting the graphic novel editions towards my book tally, rather than the Omnibus, which is 4 graphic novels combined, and also longer than the first installment of the audiobook.

The audio cast is stunning – a who’s who of the entertainment industry. Standouts for me so far have been Kat Denning as Death, the fantastic quirky goth girl who is one of my favourite characters, James McAvoy as Morpheus, and Michael Sheen as Lucifer. The stunning audioproduction is tied together with narration from Neil himself, sometimes reading the narrative elements of the original comic, and sometimes filling in additional details that are needed for context without the visual elements on the page. It’s a masterpiece, and I’m very glad I have it – even if it meant I had to break my self-imposed Am@zon ban, as it’s only available on Audible.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 47/52 and 48/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

May 23 2020

Scratchman, by Tom Baker

Scratchman, by Tom Baker

Scratchman, by Tom Baker

Title: Scratchman
Author: Tom Baker
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Doctor Who. Audiobook.

Shop local where you can: search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia.

Who could resist a Doctor Who book written and read by their favourite Doctor? Not me! Scratchman was suitably creepy, and explores ideas about the nature of fear – how it manifests in different people, and what I means. Turns out, for me it means I shouldn’t listen to Doctor Who audiobooks late at night. I will say, I found the length of this challenging. I think it’s because I’m used to the length of a normal Doctor Who episode, and after a similar length of time in the audiobook I was starting to wait for it to wrap up. I then realised that I was less than 10% of the way through, and there was still soooo much more to go. That wasn’t a bad thing – it was just a bit of dramatic format shift dissonance for me. I wouldn’t say it was one of the best things I’ve read in ages, but it was a great whovian tale, and with Tom Baker narrating it was a great way to spend a couple of nights of organising and tidying around the house.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 29/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

May 18 2020

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline

Coraline with my girls

Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Audiobook/ live reading. Adventure. Mystery.

Shop local where you can: search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia.

I listened to the New York Public Library’s read-along of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline last week, and it was so wonderful. The morning of the first session was supposed to be the day that my daughter Kelsey flew out to the US for her first solo adventure, which would mostly have seen her spending a bunch of time in New York, so it seemed appropriate for us to have a breakfast of bacon and waffles while we listened to Neil Gaiman read the first couple of chapters.

I love this book – it’s probably one of the ones I’ve read the most in between reading the physical copy, listening to the audiobook and this readalong, and teaching it multiple times. I love what it says about facing scary things but doing them anyway because they’re important. It’s always wonderful to hear people who appreciate the power of words read good quality literature, and this series was such a treat, with the reading being shared between Neil, LeVar Burton, Rosario Dawson and Dakota Fanning. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d listen to Gaiman read his shopping list, but it’s been so long since I’ve listened to LeVar Burton read that I’d forgot just how brilliant a narrator he is. It was a good reminder to cue up some more of his podcast, which is a fab collection of stories from a range of genres, all read by LeVar in his inimitable style. The relish and delight he feels for words and stories is palpable, and I need more of that in my life. The sessions for this are still available on the NYPL website – I’d highly recommend it if you’ve not listened to it already.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 26/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

February 11 2020

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Title: Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre/ issues: YA, LQBTQI+, diverse fiction, contemporary themes.

I don’t often listen to audiobooks at home, but Kelsey warned me I shouldn’t be in public when I finished this one, so I listened to the last hour or so of it last night. It was a good tip. There were messy tears. A beautiful, sensitive, sweet and smart book that I wish I’d read earlier. Aristotle is angry a lot of the time, and he doesn’t really know why. He meets Dante, and they strike up an instant connection. Two Mexican American boys with different families and experiences weave their way through this book to try and figure out the secrets of the universe. Do they get there? Maybe. You’ll have to read it to find out. But I feel like I understand it a little better now. The audiobook was beautifully narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda, and the print copy I stole off Kelsey is now dog-eared with many marked pages and passages that I’ll revisit in the future. A gem of a book.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 10/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

January 9 2020

Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow

TitleCatch and Kill: Lies, spies, and a conspiracy to protect predators
Author: Ronan Farrow
Genre/ issues: Non-fiction, investigative reporting, #MeToo.

I don’t usually leave the office for a lunch break – I’ll grab some food and sit at my desk. But today, I was so close to the end of this compelling book that I took myself to the park across the road and found myself crying though the last few traumatic chapters. It’s tough going, this tale of predation and sexual assault, made tougher because we all know someone whose been through something like this. The #MeToo era has brought so many stories to light, but so many more still fester.
It’s a big call, but I’m gonna say it – this is one of the most compelling and powerful pieces of non-fiction I’ve read. Ronan Farrow’s style of weaving personal and professional narration is brilliant, despite what I will say is one of the worst attempts at an Australian accent I’ve heard in an audiobook. I’m glad to have finally read this, and I’m glad there are men like him in the world, willing to stand up for what is right, and women who have the courage to fight through the institutional and societal mire to speak out their truth. Because, as Farrow says, “in the end the courage of women can’t be stamped out, and stories, the big ones, the true ones, can be caught but never killed.”

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge  3/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

May 13 2018

True Stories: Selected Non-Fiction, by Helen Garner

True Stories: Selected Non-Fiction

True Stories: Selected Non-Fiction

Title: True Stories: Selected Non-Fiction
Author: Helen Garner
Genre/ issues: non-fiction. Families. Education. Relationships. Writing. Feminism. So much more.

This was my first foray into Helen Garner’s work, and it won’t be the last. I’m an English teacher, lover of Australian fiction, and feminist, so I’ve heard Helen Garner’s name mentioned in a great many circles in the past, but had somehow never read anything of hers. I’ve recently started listening to Chat 10 Looks 3, and Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales fangirl over Garner like I do over Gaiman, so I figured it was worth giving her a go. I’m glad I did.

True Stories is a collection of Garner’s non-fiction work, spanning 25 years. As a bonus, the audiobook version was narrated by her, so you’re getting her work in her voice. And it’s utterly captivating – I will be revisiting this in hardcopy, so I can savour the singular beauty of the way she uses words. That’s how sentences are supposed to work. Sigh.

Her piece about discussing sex and relationships with a class when she was teaching brought to mind the connections that I loved the most as a teacher – a discussion about STD’s in particular, and why not every parent necessarily has one, particularly came back to me, making me both laugh and weep. Her story about sisters made my eyes leak – “Now that we can sing together, surely none of us will ever die, surely.” The awkwardness of forced relationships, forged by proximity rather than familiarity. The complexity of feminism and disagreements over gender lines. I love this book, and it has, as is typical, led me down the rabbit-hole of NAORH – New Author Obsessive Reading Habits. I’m currently working my way through Cosmo Cosmolino, which I’ll no doubt review here soon. I’ve got Monkey Grip cued up after that.

I finished reading?/listening to? this a few weeks ago. What I’m discovering, as I write this review, is that whilst I remember absolutely loving it, I’m finding specific details hard to recall, and I’m discovering that this is a fairly common phenomenon for me when I consume a story via audiobook. It’s a format that works extremely well for me  – an hour and a quarter each way commute, Monday to Friday, and my diminishing eye quality combined with long days working on a computer mean that listening to a book is a welcome relief. But I think that I’m also often distracted, not as attentive to the story as I am when I’m physically reading. As I’m sitting here thinking about other books I’ve listened to over recent months, I can remember really loving some of them, but not actually being able to remember specific details about them. Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you find the same thing happens, or is it just that I’m easily distracted by people watching on trains, and should not be trusted to do two things at once?

Anyway. Helen Garner. If you’ve not read her before, I highly recommend it – and this collection is as good a place as any to start. Thanks, Crabb and Sales. I’m glad for the recommendation, and I’m glad to have discovered such exquisite writing.

Happy reading,

Tamara