December 28 2020

Love is not enough, by Mark Manson

Love is not enough

Love is not enough, by Mark Manson

Title: Love is not enough
Author: Mark Manson
Genre/ issues: Non-fiction. Romance. Relationships. Self-help.

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.

When I do housework I tend to listen to non-fiction audiobooks, and yesterday whilst mowing the lawns I started on this one, mostly because it was relatively short (the other option in my audible library was Barrack Obama’s new book at 29 hours long!)
I’ve not read Manson’s Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and I’m not quite sure why I had this in my library – maybe it was one of those free options one month? I also don’t think this was necessarily the book I needed to listen to right now, as I deal with some sadness over my long distance relationship (the distance part, not the relationship part) and have been reflecting on previous relationships and how they have impacted my almost non-existent social circle right now. This was a slightly challenging read on that score, examining some of the areas that people get trapped in as they try to establish positive relationships. I recognised areas that I struggled with in the past. I identified some aspects of my personality that I deal with currently, and am cognisant of the impact of them on the people around me.
This is a thoughtful and conversational book, which presents almost more like a collection of podcasts, featuring interviews with a number of people with a range of relationship issues and dynamics. It’s an interesting read, and I’m glad I finished it – partly so I can stop dwelling on it for my own sanity, but partly also because it did help provide me with some context and reassurance that decisions I’ve made in relationships have been the right ones … eventually, if not initially. It was gratifying to hear Manson identify so many elements that I value about my relationship with Jacob as being as being key markers in healthy and successful relationships. If you’re into practical, positive and realistic self-help books, and want to do a check-in on your own relationship status, this might be a good option for you.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 107/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 6 2020

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

audio

The midnight library, by Matt Haig

Title: The midnight library
Author: Matt Haig
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Finding your purpose.

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.

When a book has a chapter heading “God and other librarians”, I can’t help but feel it’s been written specifically for me. And in Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, that’s kind of the point. But first, trigger warnings: suicidal ideation/ action. Depression, anxiety, drug & alcohol abuse/ addiction.
Nora is deeply unsatisfied with her life & is filled with regrets – alone, no meaningful relationships, she lost her job and her cat died. She decides she doesn’t want to see tomorrow, and does something about it.
She finds herself in the Midnight Library – existing only in the moment between life and death, as time doesn’t shift past 0:00:00, and curated by her school librarian, the Midnight Library is an inexhaustible collection of possible future lives for Nora, if only one thing had been different. Each potential alternative lives on the shelves in books with covers of varying thicknesses and in varying shades of green.
This novel deals with some complex topics, delving into theories of philosophy which was appropriately Nora’s major at university, as well as deep scientific concepts such as the multiverse and string theory. Despite this, it’s fairly easy to follow, with a linear narrative that carries you through Nora’s explorations of her possible lives if only she’d done something different – she ponders at one point, “Are there any other lives at all, or is it just the furnishings that change?”
There are moments of desperate sadness in this book, and whilst I found the beginning stronger than the end, it was compelling enough that I started listening to the audiobook yesterday morning when mowing the lawn, and laid in bed finishing it last night, reaching the final few words, appropriately, just as the clock hit midnight.
What would your book of regrets contain? I know mine contains a lot of things that I wish I could undo – mostly because of their impact on others than on me. But I hope that, most days, I’m more ok than not with the current volume of my life, depression and anxiety and regrets and all. Whilst I love the concept of The Midnight Library, I’m ok with not visiting it – although I do know without question who the librarian would be.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 94/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

November 15 2020

Sandman: Dream Country, by Neil Gaiman

Sandman

Sandman: Dream Country, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman: Dream Country
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Magic realism. Fantasy. Historical fiction. How we leave a mark. Relationships.

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 finally finished listening to the Sandman audiobook today, featuring the editions that make up the Dream Country TP (#17-20). These chapters are some of my favourites – Calliope, the cat who wants to change the world with dreams, and Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s an extraordinary audio production of an incredible comic series. I can’t wait for the the rest of the books to make their way to audio format.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 78/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

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 [email protected] 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