December 29 2020

Bindi by Kirli Saunders and Dub Leffler

Bindi

Bindi, by Kirli Saunders and Dub Leffler

Title: Bindi
Author: Kirli Saunders
Illustrator: Dub Leffler
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Verse novel. Indigenous relationship to the land and environment. Family. Bushfires.

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.

What a wonder this book is! Bindi by Kirli Saunders is illustrated by Dub Leffler and it’s as beautiful as you’d expect from his work. In Leffler’s signature muted, detailed style, the illustrations create an embracing sense of the land and community that fill the narrative. And what a narrative it is. An upper-middle grade verse novel, Bindi tells the story of a family and community impacted by the spectre of bushfires.
The use of Gundungwarra language as an inherent part of the way that Bindi sees and talks about her family, traditions and community is a powerful signal as to one of the key concepts of this book – how integral Indigenous culture is to our First Nations people, and by extension, how integral it should be to the way we (non-Indigenous) see and treat the land on which we live. I found this books incredibly moving, and I highly recommend it.
Often books that deal with potentially complex and sensitive subject matter such as this for younger readers can feel heavy-handed, preachy, or overly mature, but there’s a subtlety and sensitively to Kirli’s poetry that balances the serious and the light-hearted so incredibly well. Great for the upper primary readers in your life, right through to adult. A multilayered visual and poetic feast.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 108/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

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 28 2020

Simon Stalenhag art books – Tales from the loop

Title: Tales from the loop, Things from the flood, and The Electric State
Author: Simon Stalenhag
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Dystopian fiction. Art books.

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.

Tales from the loop

Tales from the loop

Tales from the Loop is incredible. This is another Christmas gift from Jacob, as we had watched the TV series made from this book and enjoyed it so much, we were both fascinated with its origins as an art book. It didn’t disappoint. Presented in pseudo-documentary style as the memoirs of a childhood lived in Sweden, the artwork and accompanying narratives tell of a world similar but oh-so-different to ours. The Loop operates outside of town, and creates anomalies in time and space. Abandoned metal spheres and robots litter the landscape, providing opportunities for strange and unusual encounters that just seem like normal experiences growing up around the Loop. Descriptions of magnetic flight and transport seemed so authentic and believable that at times I had to remind myself that this is fiction. And the artwork! Beautifully detailed and evocative of a rural, 80’s childhood not unlike the one I led, albeit with more metal structures, robots and dinosaurs in the surrounding fields. This is a truly fascinating book, highly recommended whether or not you have watched Prime’s Tales from the Loop. If you enjoy Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone, this could be right up your alley,

Things from the flood

Things from the flood

Things From the Flood. Aka, Tales from the Loop , now with 40% added spookiness!

This book follows the experiences of our narrator who shared his life growing up in the 80’s in Tales From the Loop, and shows us his life in the 90’s as the Loop operations are shut down, the neighbourhood floods with strange waters from the Loop, and the robots and machinery begin to exhibit some strange other-worldly traits. I was particularly fascinated by the chapter featuring itinerant robots with malfunctioning AI, one of which graces the cover. The illustrations are crafted with exquisite detail and I found myself getting lost in speculation about what life must be like for them. Whilst Tales from the Loop is serenely sci-fi pastoral, Things From The Flood adds a slightly more looming and sinister tone to the landscape. Equally brilliant but with a tension and suspense that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m sure that was the artist’s aim – and it was a job well done.
The electric state

The Electric State

The Electric State. The third book by Stålenhag, I didn’t think it possible for it to be weirder or my chilling than Things from the Flood – and yet here we are. Set in the US, a young woman and her robot companion are on a journey through the desert to the coast line, whilst around them the landscape and the remaining people become more disturbing. Drones take on a sinister role, engaging with humanity in inexplicable and disturbing ways. The majority of people left in the abandoned towns the girl and robot pass through wear neurocasters – a type of VR headset that resembles a plague doctor’s mask, and bodes just as ill for them. There are scarce few answers in this chilling narrative of an alternate 1990’s American landscape, but a lot of unpleasant questions, and thankfully this one feels slightly more fictional than Stålenhag’s previous two works – a fact for which I’m especially grateful as I’ve been kept up by insomnia and tinnitus, it’s almost 2am, and I don’t think a more realistic portrayal of this chilling story would have done anything to help me sleep when I eventually get back to bed tonight!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 104-106/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 26 2020

Snowpiercer the prequel

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer, the prequel

Title: Snowpiercer The prequel: Part 1 Extinction and Part 2, Apocalypse
Author: Matz
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Dystopian fiction. Climate change.

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.

Snowpiercer the prequel, Part 1: Extinction and Part 2: Apocalypse. If you’re familiar with any of the other incarnations of Snowpiercer – the Netflix series, the movie, or the graphic novels translated from their original French that started the whole train journey – you’ll know this is not a pleasant story. Snowpiercer, 1001 cars long, is a train circling the earth and maintaining human life, such as it is, after an environmental apocalypse caused a global freeze. These two prequel graphics show the lead up to that apocalypse, and how a number of groups and individuals responded to the increasing environmental and economic issues on the planet.
The prequels are visually different to the main graphic novels, containing a colour and warmth that is fittingly lacking in the stark black and white colouring of life on the train after the world is covered in ice and snow. There are still a lot of questions left for me after reading these, and I was hoping for more background on the train itself, but the logistics and mechanics of that behemoth are left frustratingly vague. Still, all in all, a fascinating read.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 102-103/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 26 2020

The old guard, by Greg Rucka

Old guard

The old guard, by Greg Rucka

Title: The old guard, book 1: opening fire
Author: Greg Rucka
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Immortality. Action/adventure.

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.

“That man is not my boyfriend. That man is more to me than you can dream in your simpering, pathetic life. That man is the stars in my sky, and the sun that lights my days. That man is the moon when I am lost in darkness and warmth when I shiver in cold. I love that man beyond reason and measure. His kiss still thrills me, even after a millennium. […] His heart overflows with the kindness of which this world is not worthy. His very thoughts make music of the mundane. He is not my boyfriend. He is not my lover, nor is he my partner. He is all and more. He is my everything.”
clipMy partner and I watched The Old Guard movie as one of our #longdistancedatenight sessions this year, and I loved it, so I was thrilled to get the comic for Christmas, and I read it today as part of my #BoxingDayBookFeast. Such an incredible story, and the movie does a great job of capturing both the action and the fantastic characters of the source material. This scene made my heart melt in the movie, and it is even more impactful in the comic- partly, I suspect, because I’m missing my own all and more after he headed back to Perth yesterday.
@ruckawriter’s name on a comic is rapidly becoming an auto-recommend for me, and this one is no exception. A 5/5 read, which has made it more difficult to compile my top 20 list of reads this year!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 101/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 24 2020

The strange library, by Haruki Murakami

Murakami

The strange library, by Haruki Murakami

Title: The strange library
Author: Haruki Murakami
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.

There are a few sure-fire ways to get me to buy and/or read your book. One of them is to make it set in, or about, a weird library. I cannot resist.
Murakami’s The Strange Library certainly fits that bill, with lovely and creepy library ephemera scattered throughout the pages. This illustrated tale tells the story of a boy who wants to return his books and borrow a volume about tax collection in the Ottoman Empire, but instead finds himself in a cell reading restricted collection volumes to fatten up his brain for his eventual demise at the hands of a creepy librarian who wants to feast on him. A sheep man, a girl who can’t speak and might not actually be a girl at all, and a maze of corridors … will he escape? What does it all mean?
This book has Twin Peaks, Gaiman, Burton, and Orwellian undertones. It’s my first Murakami and it won’t be my last! And with that, I’m at 100 books for the year, after readjusting my goal from 52 when it became obvious I was going to smash through that in July. It’s been a good reading year. I’m not relishing putting together my “best books” list for 2020, but that’s a Future Tamara problem.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 100/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 23 2020

Nerdy babies: rocks, by Emmy Kastner

Nerdy kids

Nerdy babies: rocks! by Emmy Kastner

Title: Nerdy babies: Rocks
Author: Emmy Kastner
Genre/ issues: Picture books. Rocks/ geology. Non-fiction. Science.

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.

A lovely picture book, from what looks like a great series, Nerdy Babies: Rocks delves into the complex world of rocks around us! With language that is accessible for younger readers, it also features a great sampling of scientific language and explores the paths that a fascination with rocks can lead you on. I love a good non-fiction picture book, and whilst this isn’t up there with the CSIRO ones for me, it’s super cute and a lovely addition on a shelf for your early readers, or as a readaloud.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 99/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 20 2020

Peta Lyre’s rating normal

Peta Lyre's rating normal

Peta Lyre’s rating normal, by Anna Whateley

Title: Peta Lyre’s rating normal
Author: Anna Whateley
Genre/ issues: Contemporary YA. Neurodivergence. 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.

I’ve had this sitting on my shelf for a while now, and finally started it last week. Straight to the top 10 best books I’ve read this year (which I think currently contains about 16 books – I’m an English teacher, not a maths one). Peta Lyre rates her life, based on how successfully she thinks she manages the complex social interactions around her via the rules she’s developed as part of her therapy to help her develop more “normal” behaviours. When Peta falls for the new girl at school, she needs to decide which rules matter, and if she can be normal without them.
I loved the queer romance in this book. I love the complexity and diversity of the characters. I loved the references to Frankenstein woven throughout, as Peta navigates her own thoughts on finding a way to belong, to fit in, to figure out how to do typical. I love the way that Anna Whateley frames the challenges that Peta faces as a neurodivergent character without reducing her to a stereotype – a result in equal parts due to her talent as an author as well as being a reflection of her innate understanding of neurodivergence through her own experiences.
This is a YA novel full of heart, with a number of characters finding their way to live their own normal. Highly recommended.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 98/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 20 2020

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The graveyard book, held by Jacob

The graveyard book, by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Urban 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.

It’s no secret that Neil Gaiman is my favourite author, and I usually love him narrating his own work. Over the past month or so, I’ve gotten to experience The Graveyard Book as read by my all-time favourite narrator – my wonderful partner Jacob.

One of our long-distance date night traditions is us reading something together – which usually means I lay in bed with an unopened copy of the book on my bedside table, and he reads to me. The greatest joy of this particular novel was getting to share the final few chapters in person, curled up on my couch, and not separated by thousands of kilometres.

The book itself? Wonderful. One of my favourites of Neil’s (aren’t they all though?) There’s such depth and complexity to this tale of Nobody Owens, orphaned as a toddler at the hands of a mysterious murderer who would have slaughtered Bod too if he wasn’t adopted by ghosts and granted the freedom of the graveyard. A funny, smart, thoughtful and tear-filled story of life in the midst of death. Bonus review content: Jacob’s potential “serious voice actor” headshot. His work is great, but usually performed to an exclusive audience of 1. I’d recommend booking him for your next narration project but I plan on keeping him pretty busy – we have more Gaiman to get through.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 97/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 13 2020

Brightly woven, by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly woven

Brightly woven, by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Brightly woven
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Fantasy. Magic.

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.

Brightly Woven is a graphic novel adaptation of the 2010 YA fantasy novel by Alexandra Bracken. A lovely story about magic and the balance required to wield it, as well as the power in discovering your own skills. I enjoyed this beautifully illustrated narrative – a great, uncomplicated and accessible fantasy graphic for upper primary or secondary school readers.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 96/100

Happy reading,

Tamara