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 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

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

 

 

October 14 2021

Sandman volume 6, by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Comics. Audiobook. Fantasy/ 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.

“Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story.”
Volume 6 of #Sandman by @neilhimself is one of my favourites. Fables and Reflections aptly conveys what you’ll find in these pages – myths, histories, and religious tales from the Garden of Eden to Ramadan, all woven with the unique magic of the Dreaming and Morpheus. It’s truly a celebration of the power of stories throughout time, culture, and personal experience.
Finishing this volume also brought me to the end of the Sandman audiobook volume 2, which has been breathtaking, and worth every second of the 17 minute long credits that were required to acknowledge all the incredible voice actors who brought it to life.
I mentioned in my last post about this how impressed I was with the changes to the audio script with regards to trans representation, and I was similarly impressed with some of the minor changes made in this section, particularly in Ramadan. There were a few small but significant omissions which made this chapter much more sensitive in terms of racial representation. Did I mention I think that both the audiobook and the comics are incredible? I did? Good.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 170-171/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 11 2021

Locke & Key, by Joe Hill

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Locke & Key, by Joe Hill

Title: Locke & Key
Author: Joe Hill
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Horror. Comic 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.

“Books are no more than dreams manifested on the page, after all.”
It’s no secret that I love Neil Gaiman’s work, and I’m a big fan of Sandman. When I heard that there was a Locke & Key/ Sandman universe crossover coming, I was a little unsure. I’d not read Locke & Key, and had enjoyed the Netflix series of it, but didn’t quite see it as on the same level of intensity as what I’ve enjoyed so much about the world of Morpheus and the Dreaming. So ordered it anyway, because – well, Sandman.
Yesterday, I finally started reading Locke & Key, and you know what they say – the book is always better. Holy crapballs, are the books better. A breathtaking mix of horror, family history and compelling personal narratives, one page you’re rushing through weeks, months of mind blowing action, and the next you’re sitting with a soul as they reflect on their relationships, their traumas and their life. A fantastic story, brilliantly written and illustrated, and I’m so glad I decided to visit the source material after watching the show.
Today, my crossover volumes arrived, just in time for me to jump straight into them. Yeah, I can see why Sandman and Locke & Key are the perfect crossover now. I’m sorry I doubted you, @neilhimself and @joehill.

6 trade paperbacks, 3 comics, 2 days. Not a bad way to finish lockdown and ignore MY anxiety from everything opening up again here in NSW. I’m sure there’s a clever key metaphor in their somewhere!

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Locke & Key / Sandman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 159-167/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 9 2021

Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You, by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Horror. Comics.

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 think home’s a place anymore. I think it’s a state of mind.” Barbie, in I Woke Up and One of Us Was Dying.
I’ve just finished reading the Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You, which collects no. 32-37 of the original comic run. As always, I’m listening along to the audiobook whilst reading the print, and this one brought me to tears. Mostly, the audio has been really faithful to the printed text, with some additional narration to provide context. In the final chapter, however, there are some key changes, and it made my heart happy. (Spoilers ahead). I love Wanda, and I love her relationship with Barbie. I also love that, in the audiobook, Barbie stands up for Wanda, refusing to deadname her to placate her conservative family as they gather to farewell their child. Some small but significant changes give Wanda the dignity she deserves, from her chosen family if not from her biological one. I’m glad she found her way home.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Sandman is a masterpiece. Thank you for honouring Wanda in the cast recording, @neilhimself.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 6 2021

Sandman Volume 4: Season of Mists, by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman Season of Mists: Volume 4, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman Season of Mists: Volume 4
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Horror. Comics.

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.

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end the tale.
Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.”” Season of Mists, Chapter 4.
I’m working my way slowly through the @thesandmanofficial volume 2, reading the printed comics as I listen to the audiobook. Today I finished the chapters that comprise the Season of Mists trade paperback. Morpheus meets up with his siblings, and is prompted to return to Hell in an attempt to rescue Nada, an African Queen he trapped there after she refused to stay with him in the Dreaming. Lucifer quits, and hands the key to Hell to Morpheus, who then is visited by gods, angels, demons and fairies, all petitioning for the right to possess Hell, and variously threatening or cajoling him in an attempt to plead their case. It’s a fascinating examination of the role of death and the afterlife in many different traditions, and the audiobook is stunning, with a who’s who of celebrity voices. David Tennant as Loki was particularly fantastic, as is Bebe Neuwith as Bast – and I couldn’t love @katdenningsss as Death more if I tried.
If you get the chance to experience this comic in both print and audio form together, I highly recommend it. A multi sensory feast of story, image and sound.
I did also have a momentary pang of jealousy as Lucifer hangs out on the beach in Perth, just quietly. Lucky devil.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 16 2021

The Deception Engine – Part Two and Part Three, by J-L Heylen

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The Deception Engine – Part Two and Part Three, by J-L Heylen

Title: The Deception Engine – Part Two and Three
Author: J-L Heylen
Genre/ issues: Steampunk. 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.

My e-reader experiment continues – I read part 2 of JL Heylen’s Deception Engine on my resuscitated kindle, and part 3 on my iPad. Sigh. I really need a new ereader. The important part of the process though? The books. I can’t say much without being too spoilery, as they very much rely on you having read part 1 first. I will say, though, I found these as thoroughly engaging as the first volume, with some fantastic character and relationship development throughout. Witty, quirky and a whole lot of fun.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 125-126/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 13 2021

The Deception Engine: Part One, by J. L. Heylen

 

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The Deception Engine: Part One, by J. L. Heylen

Title: The Deception Engine: Part One
Author:
J. L. Heylen
Genre/ issues: 
Steampunk. 

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 been struggling with the decision about whether to buy a new e-reader or not. I used to have a kindle which I used a lot, but when it died I didn’t replace it, thinking I’d just use the apps on my iPad. Spoiler alert – I did not. I’ve tried it a few times, but the backlit screen and temptation to switch to other apps don’t work for me. I’ve been toying with a few options, and would prefer a non-Amazon product, but my mum gave me her old kindle yesterday so I’ve been testing it out. Whilst I don’t think it’s going to be a good long term solution (so far it can’t be unplugged for more than a few minutes!) I did find some ebooks I’d forgotten I’d purchased! So last night, I started the Deception Engine series by JL Heylen.
Why don’t I read more steampunk? I really love it, and this is the first steampunk book I’ve read set in familiar surroundings! Hilary Templestowe arrives in colonial Sydney after her husband’s death, looking for a new start and some adventure. She finds it, in the form of wo/man about town, Phyllida/ Mister Phil Thorn. A mystery unfolds. There’s some spice, as Phil and Hilary discover some delightful ways to repurpose a rising crop. And, most importantly, there’s a cracking narrative with some interesting and engaging characters. I particularly love the wry and sardonic humour that weaves its way through this book (most notably in the fab chapter titles!) and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into parts 2 and 3 of this book soon! CW: mentions of rape/ physical abuse (brief but very present). Mentions of homophobia/ family abandonment due to sex/gender issues. And, as one of my favourite chapter titles warns, best not to read this one to the kids.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 120/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 30 2021

The called us enemy, by George Takei

The called us enemy

The called us enemy, by George Takei

Title: The called us enemy
Author: George Takei
Genre/ issues: Memoir. History. Graphic Novel. Racism. WW2.

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.

They Called Us Enemy: expanded edition, by George Takei. A stunning memoir tracing Takei’s life and experiences as a Japanese American, interned with his family for the “crime” of having Japanese ancestry during World War 2. The deceptively simple black and white illustrations capture the historical trauma of this time, retold with the maturity of hindsight but still capturing the experience through the eyes of a child, excited by the train rides and the vacations and not fully understanding why everyone around him is so scared and upset. I’ve read a few different memoirs about this time, and I’m always struck by the complex emotions that they evoke. Wonder at the strength and tenacity that families showed to endure such treatment from a place they called home. Sadness that there was a need for such strength. Horror that people were treated this way – and moreso that they are still, as Takei points out as he parallels Trump’s orders around Muslim immigration at the beginning of his term in office.
Perhaps the key enduring message from this beautifully told piece of history is the importance and power of democracy. Of the impact of using your voice to speak out for what is right. Representation matters, in politics, in social justice movements, and in our media – which is something that Takei represents on a great many fronts. I’d highly recommend picking this gem up.

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#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 116/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara