October 25 2020

Somebody give this heart a pen, by Sophia Thakur

Give this heart a pen

Somebody give this heart a pen, by Sophia Thakur

Title: Somebody give this heart a pen
Author: Sophia Thakur
Genre/ issues: Poetry. Identity. Listening to your inner voice.

I read most of this book last night. I finished it this morning, and then reread a decent chuck of it again. When I was halfway through it last night, I commented to Jacob that it was ok but I felt like it was suffering from being on the page rather than delivered orally, and I don’t deny that this would be exceptionally powerful delivered as a spoke word performance by Sophia Thakur, who is an expert in this art form. But I think, reflecting on it this morning, that I was just struggling to engage with some of the messages because they are deeply relevant to me, and sometimes that’s hard to hear.
This collection of poems charts the journey through love, loss, pain and self-discovery. Poems which deal with embracing your pain, giving yourself permission to speak, listening to your inner voice … they hit hard this weekend, particularly as I’m struggling with the looming sense of imposter syndrome as I face my first NaNoWriMo. I’ve always wanted to write, but there has always been a part of me that has shouted that desire down. I’ve largely listened to that voice, and now, as I give voice to that part of my heart that wants to write, my inner imposter syndrome is flexing its muscles. He’s had more practice at this than I have in listening to my heart, so he’s better at these arguments. But I’m going to write anyway.
So, Someone Give This Heart a Pen. It’s a great collection of poetry by a thoughtful and insightful poet. Sunday morning Tamara highly recommends it, even if Saturday evening Tamara struggled. You really do need to read things at the right time, huh? Check out this short clip of Sophia performing one of the poems from this collection. Beautiful stuff.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 73/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 4 2020

Clap when you land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap when you land book

Clap when you land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: Clap when you land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre/ issues: Verse novel. Family. Culture. Race and gender.

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 reading this book over a week ago, and loved it but have been finding it hard to get back to. Part of me didn’t want to finish reading it. Tonight I dove back in, and read until the end. It’s brilliant, sad, and wonderful, and I’m so glad to have read it … but sometimes books just hit on a scar in your soul that you thought had healed, don’t they? They tap insistently at a hurt you thought you’d moved past, and you’re reminded that some pains endure much longer than you think. They’ll be firmly a part of your past, but their presence can not be ignored.
Clap When You Land is a verse novel by @acevedowrites, about two sisters separated by borders and secrets. They discover each other’s existence when their father’s flight crashes, and they have to figure out how to live without him, and how to reconcile the existence of this hitherto unknown sister into their world.
This is the second book by Acevedo that I’ve read in the past month or so, and both of them are cracking contenders for my hotly contested Top 10 reads of the year. I love verse novels, and the way that different rhyming patterns are used to represent the two sisters, and then woven together as their stories combine, is so good it makes me want to write a verse novel. I doubt I’d do the form justice, though, with this model to look up to.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 49/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 15 2020

Long way down, by Jason Reynolds

Long way down

Long way down, by Jason Reynolds

Title: Long way down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre/ issues: Verse novel. Generational violence.

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.

Whilst I was typing up my last post, Mad Sweeney decided for snuggle up with the book. I figured it’s the kind of book that could use some snuggly kitty content. This book is a quick read – a verse novel, sparsely told and spanning the time it takes for the elevator to go from the floor that Will lives on to the lobby. That elevator ride is an incredibly powerful one, that hits with the force of a bullet. Will is on his way to avenge the shooting death of his brother, and he is visited by ghosts of his past. Through their stories, and his engagement with them, we gain a stunning insight into the impact of generational violence. Words like “stunning”, “astonishing”, “magnificent” and “masterpiece” adorn the cover. They may be underselling it. A graphic novel of this is coming out soon. I’ll be buying it. You should too, and get this one in the meantime.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 44/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 2 2020

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo

The poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: The poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre/ issues: Verse novel. Gender. Family. Finding your voice.

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.

“One of the best books I’ve read this year” is a category that just keeps expanding, and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo slammed its way into those ranks last night. I read it in one sitting. I’m planning on reading it again. It’s a stunning verse novel that reminded me why I love words, and how powerful words can be in the right hands. Xiomara is Dominican American from a Catholic family, who goes through life living up to the strict moral code imposed upon her by her mother. Her twin brother is facing his own battles, and whilst they’re connected by their special twin bond, they each need to find their own paths. For Xiomara, that means coming to terms with her relationship with her body, the body in her science class, and her passion for poetry.
This book is exceptional. About a quarter of the way through it I knew a certain special friend needed to read it too, so I messaged her letting her know I’d lend it to her when I was finished. By the time I was done, I had dog-eared so many passages I wanted to remember, and I decided that she needed her own copy so I hopped online and ordered her one. Spoiler alert, Sam – parcel arriving early next week!

You should read this book. You should get the teens in your life to read this book. Have I mentioned that I thought it was outstanding?

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 39/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

June 21 2020

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Crossover

Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Title: The Crossover
Author: Kwame Alexander
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Verse novel. Sports. Family. Relationships.

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.

In order to expand my reading horizons this year, I’ve been consciously choosing books that wouldn’t normally be ones I’d gravitate towards. Sports books fit firmly in that category, and in an effort to decolonize my bookshelf, I’m reading books by BIPOC authors as much as possible this month.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is EXCELLENT. I love that, in fiction in general and verse novels like this in particular, you get such incredible opportunities to care about and empathise with characters who are so innately different from you. This book definitely provided me this experience, as we get to see the struggles of the main character, a basketball star, and his twin brother, who start to drift apart as they go through the junior high school year. Their father is a former basketball star himself, with health issues and a dislike of doctors that causes friction amongst the family. It’s beautiful, compelling poetry, with such incredible heart and soul. Highly recommended, and well worth all the awards it received upon its release.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 35/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

May 20 2020

Worse things, by Sally Murphy

Worse things, by Sally Murphy

Title: Worse Things
Author: Sally Murphy
Genre/ issues: Middle grade/YA. Verse novel. Contemporary fiction. Refugees. Identity. Finding your place.

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

This arrived in the mail today, and I just devoured it in one sitting. This verse novel by Sally provides the parallel narratives of three teens all dealing with their own issues. A footballer who breaks his arm in the first game of the season, and is frustrated at not being able to play. A hockey player whose mother wants her to be a Hockeyroo but who’d rather be doing almost anything else. And a refugee who is still struggling with the stupid language and the strangeness of his new home.

I really loved this book. It’s a deceptively easy read, but extremely powerful despite that simplicity, and with a series of sparsely scattered illustrations that serve as a sucker punch for the emotions filtering through the poetry. One particular poem had me sobbing so unexpectedly hard as I thought about the refugee kids I used to teach and show through the library – it took me a solid 5 minutes to recover enough to keep reading. Thank you for this, Sally. It’s a wonderful piece of work.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 28/52

Happy reading,

Tamara