March 10 2020

The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Starless Sea
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. The power of stories.

“We are all star dust and stories.”
I love stories about stories. Books which honour the role of stories in our lives, that treasure narratives and that unapologetically love words? They’re my favourite types of books. This one, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, is utterly wonderful. Honouring then stories that have come before it with sweet little references to Narnia, the Potterverae, and a Lev Grossman vibe that’s unmistakeable, but simultaneously creating its own unique fantasy in which a subterranean library of all stories ever told, past present and future, is curated and tended by a secret society … can you see why I love it?

Morgenstern books

Morgenstern books

I’ve read some wholly excellent books this year, and The Starless Sea ranks up there with the best of them. A friend from work loaned it to me, after we’d had a chat about books we loved, and I gave her another of my faves to read. I confessed that I was a dog-earer, but promised to not do so to her book, and she said that she didn’t mind at all as she did the same! It made me happy to find a kindred spirit. As I read, though, and marked pages that touched me deeply, I realised that I wanted to keep this copy with all its folded corners, so I ordered her a fresh new copy – only to find out that she’d done the same thing for the book I had loaned her!

I’m so glad to have added it to my story, to have made a connection with another book soul, and to be a part of the journey of The Starless Sea through the world. If you’ve not read this, do so – and grab The Night Circus while you’re at it, it’s similarly brilliant. 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 15/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

March 9 2020

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Hitchhiker's Guide

The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Travel. The importance of a towel.

I love the way words sound. There’s a magic to a story when it’s read by someone who understands the power of language, who appreciates the rhythm and swell of a passage. It’s one of the reasons I loved to read aloud in class, and also why I love audiobooks so much.

My wonderful partner Jacob lives on the other side of the country to me. When we first met, we bonded quickly over our love of words and stories, and I knew he was my person when the first photo he sent to me was indeed a dic-pic, but one of the stunning vintage dictionary kind. Whilst there are a lot of things I dislike about this long-distance relationship thing we have going on, the frequent opportunities for date nights which involve me curling up and him reading to me are magic. He’s my favourite narrator – his intuitive understanding of the way words and prose are supposed to sound combined with the way he’s not afraid to make a funny voice or adopt a character whilst he is reading make it so easy to get lost in whatever story he is reading to me. It’s my favourite kind of date night, and we’ve been ranging through a lot of different styles of writing. We both love Hitchhiker’s Guide, and I loved listening to him read it to me over the past couple of months. Whilst the sci-fi aspect of it may be a little dated now, the humour and skill in the writing stands the test of time. 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 14/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

January 16 2020

Curious: Life hacks through maths, by Lily Serna

Curious, by Lily Serna

Curious, by Lily Serna

Title: Curious: Life hacks through maths
AuthorLily Serna
Genre/ issues: STEM, maths, numbers and patterns in everyday life.

I started Curious by Lily Serna yesterday on the way home, read a few chapters on the couch last night with Minerva overseeing, and have just finished it on the train into the city. What a joy this book is! I know it’s anathema to say, as you’re supposed to either be English or Maths and never the Twain shall meet, but I’ve always been a bit of a number nerd.
Curious is a delightful romp through dinner party maths, monopoly strategy, and how to look smart through quick mental calculation tricks. Any book which dedicates a few pages to working our value for money when ordering pizza has my vote, and the section on the Special Pancake Number had me smiling so hard. Lily’s sheer joy for maths is contagious, and she does that rare and wonderful thing of taking potentially challenging and confronting ideas and breaking them down into supportive and simple components so that those who think they aren’t really maths people can come away with something new.
I love her view that “arithmetic is to maths what words are to English. Words are, of course, the building blocks of language. However the value of a beautiful piece of processor a poem is greater than the sum of the words that form them.” Patterns, processes and predictions in maths are fascinating, and I’d recommend this book for both number nerds and the number challenged alike. It’s a really friendly, funny and supportive romp through maths in your everyday life. 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 7/52

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