October 28 2021

Zenobia, by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman

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Zenobia, by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman

Title: Zenobia
Author: Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel/ picture book. Refugee issues.

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 whisper: Find me!
But I only whisper it to myself.”
Zenobia by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman is an incredibly sobering and powerful read. There are few words, but the pictures convey a story that’s heartbreaking to the extreme. Amin’s is on a boat – crowded, afraid, and not fit for the journey it’s taking across the open ocean. As it’s hit by a giant wave, she’s thrown overboard, and as she floats downwards in the salty water, she remembers how she got here. The salty dolmas her mother made, just before her parents disappeared. The quietness of her village before the tanks arrived, and her uncle came to take her away. The tears as he used the last money he had to get her on a boat to freedom. From hiding as a child playing hide and seek at home, to being invisible in a world which doesn’t see her … this is a deeply personal individual story about Amina, which shines a spotlight on the devastation and despair of the Syrian refugee crisis.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 182/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 25 2021

Hometown Haunts, edited by Poppy Nwosu

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Hometown Haunts, by Poppy Nwosu

Title: Hometown Haunts
Author: Poppy Nwosu
Genre/ issues: Short stories. YA fiction. Horror stories.

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 really read horror.
Yes, I know I’ve read a lot of horror in the past month or so, but that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s October, right?
Oooh, it’s got such a pretty cover though … that’ll look lovely on my bookshelf!
Wait, Wai Chim contributed to it? And Alison Snevans??? Sigh. Fine, I’ll read it. It’s YA horror … how scary can it be?
Famous last words, Past Tamara – it can be pretty damn scary! Damn, Hometown Haunts #loveozya horror tales anthology is good! A stellar list of contributing authors, including some of my faves and some who have succeeded in scaring the pants off me in such enjoyable ways that I’ve added them to the list of people to check out. A few highlights – Slaughterhouse Boys by @redscribed made me simultaneously shudder and cry in their story about enjoying a good steak and the social construct of masculinity. @talltales_poppynwosu broke my heart with her beautiful tale of loss and disolving people, Nature Boy. @alisonwritesthings – eyes. Shudder. Such a brilliant story about bodily change through puberty with a body horror twist that still makes my skin crawl when I think about it. And, thanks to @project_lectito and @sarahepsteinbooks I’ll never again use either an Olympic swimming pool or a roadside rest stop, so thanks for that.
I feel a little remiss not mentioning all the stories individually, because there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t – well, “enjoy” might be the wrong word? But they’re all excellent. Special mention to Emma Preston’s It’s Quiet Now, a thought-provoking short comic about what happens on the streets when people are in lockdown.
Hometown Haunts is a fantastic mix of humour, wit, and thoughtfulness in 12 short stories and 2 short comics, all guaranteed* to make you shudder.
(*not a legally binding guarantee)

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 181/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 24 2021

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

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Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. YA fiction. Black lives matter. Generational trauma.

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.

“Another thing about the Rules
They weren’t meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken

to follow.”

I thought I’d be prepared for the graphic novel version of Long Way Down by @jasonreynolds83. I read the verse novel last year and was in awe of the strength and sensitivity of the storytelling. Add the graphic illustrations by @novgorodoff, and it’s a whole added level of punch.
Will is 15. His older brother has just been shot, and the Rules say that it’s Will’s duty to get revenge. To find the man who killed Shawn and shoot him. He takes the gun from his brother’s hiding place, and gets in the elevator, pressing the button for the lobby with a plan laid out.
But as the lift descends, the doors open on each floor of the building, admitting people from Will’s past who definitely shouldn’t be there, and who all provide another perspective on the Rules.
Reynolds’ poetry is stunning, sparse and powerful, and Novgorodoff’s watercolour artwork drives this tragedy of generational trauma and gang violence home even deeper. If you’ve not read this book, I’d highly recommend it. So incredibly good, words don’t seem to do it justice.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 180/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 24 2021

The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

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The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

Title: The Lost Boy
Author: Greg Ruth
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. YA. 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.

Some mysteries are too dangerous to ignore …
The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel suitable for upper primary readers. Nate reluctantly moves into a new house and town with his family, and finds an old reel to reel tape recorder hidden in the floorboards. As he listens to the tapes, he discovers the mystery of Walt, who had lived here decades ago, and disappeared under strange circumstances. Walt and his new friend Tabitha discover that the curious tales that Walt recorded on his tapes aren’t quite as far-fetched as they might have first appeared.
Mysterious hidden worlds, an army of talking animals, and trees that aren’t quite what they seem … it’s a good solid middle-grade urban fantasy, made better by stunning black and white illustrations that sometimes take on a surreal life of their own. Worth the read just to check out the artwork!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 176/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 6 2021

Nick and Charlie, by Alice Oseman

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Nick and Charlie, by Alice Oseman

Title: Nick and Charlie
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: YA, Queer fiction. 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.

Another instalment in @aliceoseman’s Heartstopper/ Solitaire world, Nick and Charlie takes place at the end of Nick’s final year of school. He’s getting excited about going to university. Charlie’s getting anxious about how they’re going to handle a long distance relationship, and the well-meaning comments on his Tumblr don’t help. I love Nick and Charlie. They’re such a great couple, and I desperately wanted to give Charlie a hug and tell him that long distance relationships aren’t easy, but when it’s the right person, they’re the easiest thing in the world. It was wonderful to visit these two again in this lovely novella.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 5 2021

Interworld series, by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves

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Interworld series, by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves

Title: Interworld series
Author: Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
Genre/ issues: YA. Sci-fi/ 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.

“Don’t think because I feel it differently, I feel it less.”
I grabbed book 2 of this series in hardcover at a second hand bookstore. It’ll be fine, I told myself, it won’t be too difficult to find the rest in matching hardcovers! Turns out, it wasn’t hard, but it would have been pricey, so in a brief moment of fiscal responsibility I ordered the paperbacks instead. I’m still not quite sure I’ve forgiven myself for this.
Anyway … the Interworld series is a trilogy conceived my Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves, with book 1 written by them, and books 2 and 3 written by Michael and Mallory Reaves.
Joey Harker has a terrible sense of direction. One day, though, he finds himself more lost than usual – in a world that looks just like his, but in which his parents don’t recognise him, and have a daughter his age instead. He finds himself under attack, and is rescued by someone who looks just like him. Joey finds himself at InterWorld, an organisation set up to save the multi/inter/universes from two competing evil regimes – Hex, who use magic to combat and control, and Binary, who employ technology. Interworld stands between them, filled with agents who are Walkers like Joey, determined to hold the competing forces at bay. And the agents are VERY much like Joey- all different versions of him from alternate worlds. Like the forces they battle, their worlds are often either technology- or magic-filled, and they all have as many differences as they have similarities.
I really enjoyed this trilogy. It’s an action-packed and engaging mix of science fiction and fantasy, with some complex ideas about the nature of the universe, time travel, and the notion of our responsibilities to ourselves as well as to others.
For those of you who know my feelings about Mr Gaiman, the following might come as a surprise. Brace yourselves. This series won’t be making it into any of my top 10 lists this year. It was good, and if you’re after a fast, engaging read with a unique premise, I’d recommend it. But for me, the ending felt a little rushed and unresolved, and (no shade to Michael and Mallory Reaves at all) it doesn’t have the gentle beauty that I’ve come to expect from Neil’s prose.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 19 2021

This Winter, by Alice Oseman

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This Winter, by Alice Oseman

Title: This Winter
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: YA. Relationships. Mental health.

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.

Another Alice Oseman gem in the world of the Spring family. We get to see the world through Tori’s eyes in Solitaire, and Heartstopper shows us Charlie’s experiences. This Winter is a novella that invites us to join the whole family for Christmas Day, with a section dedicated to how the festive season plays out for them both, as well as their younger brother Oliver. It’s as nuanced and complex as you’d expect from this master of both storytelling and characterisation, and was a lovely quick read. You don’t need to have read either Heartstopper or Solitaire to enjoy this, but if you start here it’ll be a little spoilery so be warned.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 128/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 19 2021

Solitaire, by Alice Oseman

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Solitaire, by Alice Oseman

Title: Solitaire
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: Mental health.

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.

One of my literary joys of 2020 was discovering the work of Alice Oseman. I’m jumping around in their work, not reading in any particular order, and over the past couple of days I’ve finally gotten to their first novel. What a powerhouse of emotion Solitaire is! Set in the same world as the Heartstopper series, this novel focuses on Charlie Spring’s sister Tori. She sees herself as fundamentally serious – “As far as I’m concerned, I came out of the womb spouting cynicism and wishing for rain.” She finds herself increasingly disconnected from her friend group, and caught up in the mystery blog, Solitaire, which is pulling increasingly elaborate pranks around their school and is building up to something big. And then there’s two guys who come into her life at the same time. Lucas, who was her childhood best friend, was seemingly wants to rekindle their friendship. And Michael. Michael Holden, who acts like they already ARE BFF’s, and insists on spending time together. Tori doesn’t hate it … but she also doesn’t understand it. Because … well, why would anyone want to spend time with someone as messed up as her?
Solitaire has the same characters as Heartstopper, and similarly deals with mental health, however it’s quite a different tone. Whilst Oseman balances light and dark beautifully in all their work, Heartstopper skews towards the light. Solitaire explores the dark. That might explain why, despite the emotional and mental health triggers for me in this book, I felt so comfortable inside its pages. It felt like home to me. I appreciated the reminder that sometimes “alone” is more a feeling than a reality. A powerful and beautifully written novel that will stay with me for a long time.
CW: references to suicidal ideation and attempts, depression, eating disorders, and OCD. Oseman’s website contains more detail about possible triggering ideas and content, and is worth referring to before you read any of their work.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 127/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 11 2021

Ash and Quill, by Rachel Caine

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Ash and Quill, by Rachel Caine

Title: Ash and Quill
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre/ issues:

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.

 

Book 3 down. Book 4 up next. The Great Library series is … well, really great.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 119/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 8 2021

Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine

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Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine

Title: Paper and Fire
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Alternate history. 

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.

Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine, is book 2 in the Great Library series, and explores what might have happened if the Library of Alexandria was not destroyed, but instead preserved, and went on to become a powerful and untouchable force in the world.

It’s hard to do a decent review of this book without being all spoilery for book 1, so I’ll just talk in general terms about what I find so compelling about this. Firstly, it’s no secret I’m a great lover and supporter of libraries. Their ability to support and empower communities by providing free and equitable access to ideas and information is something I value so highly. The importance of that concept is something this series strives to hammer home – how different would the world be if libraries sought to control that access rather than to enable it? It’s a powerful idea to ponder, particularly in a world which takes easy access to information for granted (sometimes at our own peril!)
Secondly, found family. My favourite trope. It’s probably the great strength of this series for me – seeing the bonds that are formed between the unlikely group of friends and mentors. It’s not always easy though, as a number of characters have to grapple with notions of trust and honesty – when is it right to withhold information from the people you care about? Who gets to make that decision, and is it right if it’s for their own protection?
This book contained one of the most emotionally devastating scenes I’ve read in a while – again, trying hard to be spoiler free, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I got to the end and took a moment to hug my bookshelves. (It took a while. There are a lot of them). The final chapter felt a bit rushed and book-2-cliff-hangery, IYKWIM, but I’m not sad about it. Mostly because I’m starting book 3 when I wake up in the morning. Not a bad way to spend yet another weekend in Covid lockdown, I guess

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 118/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara