September 20 2020

Hollowpox, by Jessica Townsend

Hollopox

Hollowpox, by Jessica Townsend

Title: Hollowpox
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Middle grade fiction.

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.

There’s something to be said for reading a book at the right time, huh? When I first read Nevermoor, I remember thinking it was ok but nothing spectacular. I reread it last year when I read Wundersmith, because I thought perhaps I’d not been in the right head space for it the first time around, and I was right. So, what a joy it was today to revisit this wonderful world. Hollowpox is definitely my favourite of the three books so far in this series, with its effortlessly diverse cast of characters, and complex and powerful dilemmas to be faced. I love that we got to see more of Miss Cheery in this book, and I think I’ve found a new contender for favourite fictional library.
Hollowpox deals with some pressing and timely concepts. How do we handle a virus that’s spreading uncontrollably though the population? How do we deal with the even more dangerous spread of intolerance and hatred towards those who are different? How do we decide when and how we take a stand?
This is a fascinating and lovely book, which didn’t end up where I thought it would, but I was thrilled to go on the journey regardless. Jessica Townsend has expanded further on this magical world, and I’m here for it. Hollowpox is out soon – if you’ve got middle grade or YA readers in your life who haven’t discover the joy of Nevermoor yet, get them on it! 🌂

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 61/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

September 19 2020

Truel1f3, by Jay Kristoff

Truelife

Truel1f3, by Jay Kristoff

Title: Truelife
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. YA fiction. Dystopian fiction. Artificial intelligence.

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 make no secret of my love for the work of Jay Kristoff, and this final instalment in the Lifel1k3 series does nothing to change that. As it’s book 3, I’ll try and keep this post as spoiler-free as possible, but if you’ve not read the first couple of books, and gritty action-packed dystopian sci-fi with AI, robot battles and smart-mouthed teens with hearts of gold is your jam, get on it.
This book is a great end to the series, which shows us a future YouSay in which two Corp States race for supremacy over what’s left of the country after a nuclear and environmental disaster. It’s not uncommon in dystopian novels for us to see a grim picture of technology, virtual reality and automation having taken over. We often see futures in which a Borg-like collective has “improved” life for humanity, and sees individuality as inferior to the well-being of all. We frequently see mutations, genetic evolutions that see what’s left of humanity change in ways that more conservative factions see as freakish or wrong. This series gives us all of that and more. With Kristoff’s recurring focus on the potential impacts of AI, Truelife brings into sharp focus the questions around life and free will – what they are, and who is entitled to claim them. As is frequently the case, some of the most compelling and engaging characters are the non-human ones – Cricket, the tiny robotic companion and body guard to one of our main characters from book 1, really gets to flex his muscle in this book, and his story arc is undoubtedly my favourite.
Kristoff writes with a sharp and clever nod to pop culture, and his YA work is a great introduction to the sci-fi and dystopian genres for teen readers. He doesn’t talk down to his audience, and whilst there were times in this series I was reminded that I am not a member of that esteemed group, I still thoroughly enjoyed this finale to a gripping series.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 60/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 29 2020

You brought me the ocean, by Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroh

You brought me the ocea

You brought me the ocean, by Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroh

Title: You brought me the ocean
Author: Alex Sanchez
Illustrator: Julie Maroh
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. DC universe. Queer fiction.

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.

You remember a few months ago I posted about wanting to get into reading comics and graphic novels more? Well, this shelf is now officially full and I need to shuffle the bookcase to start a second one. I think I’ve done it!
I picked up You Brought Me the Ocean at Kings Comics last weekend when I visited, and I’ve just read it in one sitting. Sweet, thoughtful, and beautifully illustrated by Julie Maroh, it’s the story of Jake, who lives in the desert but is obsessed with the ocean. Jake is dealing with a lot of complications – his best friend, who wants them to go to college together and stay close to home. His mother, who wants to keep him safe and as far away from water as possible. His strange blue birthmarks which glow when he comes into contact with water. And his developing attraction for Kenny, swim team captain and class rebel. This is a great coming of age graphic novel, with lovely messages about family and communication, a super-sweet romance and coming-our story, and some pretty cool appearances by some iconic characters from the DC universe. A good solid 4/5 read for me, nothing too confronting or difficult, some great racial diversity amongst the main characters and the types of families presented, and a relatively quick read. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 56/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 8 2020

Burn, by Patrick Ness

Burn

Burn, by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre/ issues: Alternative history. Fantasy. Racism.

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.

There’s no doubt that Patrick Ness is a masterful writer. I read his latest book, Burn, today, and there are many dog-eared pages marking passages that I’ll be coming back to and want to savour. I love the premise, too – small-town America, post-WW2 and in the grip of the Soviet suspicion that is a familiar part of our history, but with one (not-so) small difference – thar be dragons. Dragons living peacefully alongside humans, if not always trusted, and occasionally hired for labour.

This is a world in which racism and bigotry still exists. Where homosexuality is considered a sin by some, and kids are kicked out of home because of it. A world in which fanaticism, in the form of a cult of Believers dedicated to dragons, will let nothing get in the way of fulfilling an ancient prophecy. It’s also a world of (slightly spoilery!) multiverses, which ALWAYS appeals to me. I liked the diversity of the characters, and the way they handled being different in a world that sometimes wanted to punish them for that.

But – and it’s a big but – I found the ending kind of rushed and unsatisfying. Whilst I appreciated the narrative, I don’t think there was a whole lot of meaningful character development – at least, none I connected with on any emotional level. And I feel like the final chapters relief a little too much on exposition to wrap things up.
Having said all that, I still rate this book a solid 4/5. Malcolm and Nelson – sigh. I hope things are going well for them, and that they’re old men now, sitting on their porch holding hands and drinking tea. I know a friend read this and was mad that there isn’t going to be a book 2 – I’m ok with that. It’s a solid standalone for me. I don’t need to revisit this world, but I’m quite happy to have spent a Saturday here.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 53/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 8 2020

You should see me in a crown, by Leah Johnson

You should see me in a crown

You should see me in a crown, by Leah Johnson

Title: You should see me in a crown
Author: Leah Johnson
Genre/ issues: YA romance. Coming of age. Race.

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.

What a delight this book by Leah Johnson was! I read this in a single sitting tonight – sweet, engaging, heartfelt and romantic. Liz’s plans for college are in jeopardy when some financial support she was counting on falls through, until her brother comes up with the bright idea of running for prom queen and the scholarship that goes along with it. Liz has always felt too black, too poor and too awkward for her small, rich and prom-obsessed town. But running for prom queen might just be the thing she needs to help her see how she really fits in. Plus, the new girl at school … did I mention romance?

I grew up in a small town. I felt the sting of not feeling “enough” of anything. Of not feeling like I fit in, even with my friends. I loved the arc that Liz gets in You Should See Me in a Crown. There were scenes that brought me to tears of joy, and some moments that gave me real 10 Things vibes. An utter joy.

It also marks me hitting my target for my 2020 Reading Challenge  – 52/52. I guess I need to readjust that target, huh?

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 52/52

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 16 2020

The house in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune

Title: The house in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Acceptance. Chosen family.

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.

How many times can I post about “one of the best books I’ve read this year” before that phrase starts to lose all meaning? Well, The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’d venture to say it’ll work its magical way into a future “one of the best books I’ve ever read” list. It’s certainly one of the most whimsically lovely, and the one I’ve shed the most joyful tears over.

Donna Noble is my favourite Doctor Who companion, and one of my very favourite characters from the series, Doctor included. Stay with me here, I know it feels like a tangent. What I love about Donna is that she feels like she’s utterly ordinary and unremarkable, so unimportant that she can’t possibly be special, but she is in fact the whole universe. Linus Baker from The House in the Cerulean Sea reminds me very much of her, and in a book filled with characters of various and wondrous magical abilities, he is the most captivating of them all. Linus is a by-the-book caseworker for the Department in Charge if Magical Youth, and he feels largely invisible in his drab dreary world. A special assignment sees him investigating an orphanage that is home to a special bunch of magical youth, and their equally intriguing House Master. There are secrets to be discovered, but more importantly there are lessons to be learned on the power of the family we choose.

This book is a wonder, a joy, a captivating delight. I don’t know that I would ever have found it if not for some recommendations by a couple of TikTok friends, so I’m grateful to them both for mentioning this one. I’ll be doing the same to anyone who’ll listen – get this book. Read it. It’s powerful and beautiful and I need more people to have read it so I can talk about it with them!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 42/52

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 30 2020

The hate u give, by Angie Thomas

The hate u give by Angie Thomas

The hate u give, by Angie Thomas

Title: The hate u give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre/ issues: YA contemporary fiction. Racism. Black Lives Matter. Family.

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.

June saw me reading books by BIPOC authors as I focused on decolonising my bookshelf, and I finished the month with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. What a sensational book. Focusing on the personal and community responses in the wake of the shooting of a black teen by a white cop, this book is gripping. Whilst we see mostly through the eyes of Starr, the main character and friend of the young man who was killed, we also get significant insight into the motivations and reactions of a range of people who are impacted by this. Why do people protest? How do good cops, like Starr’s uncle, respond when someone they know is in the firing line? How do white friends show their support? I was really moved by this book, and by its subtle insistence that the most powerful weapon we have is our voice. Let’s use it to speak up for what’s right, and to speak out against what is wrong.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 38/52

Happy reading,

Tamara