October 31 2020

The left-handed booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

Left-handed booksellers

The left-handed booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

Title: The left-handed booksellers of London
Author: Garth Nix
Genre/ issues: Urban fantasy. Magic. Mythology.

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 help us anchor our souls.”
There are a few things that will make me insta-buy or read a book. Neil Gaiman’s name on the cover, for one. Alternate histories, for another. Books that deal with book stores, and/or libraries? Sign me up.
On paper (pun intended) this should have been my book. I loved the premise, and the characters were just wonderful. Merlin and his confidence in expressing his gender fluidity is a delight. Sally, not quite knowing who she is and where she fits as she searches for her father, felt particularly real to me. I loved the value that books played in this almost urban fantasy set in an almost 1983 London, and squealed with joy over the Penguin room and the book pyramid (no spoilers!) I loved that, in difficult times, Merlin hunted for a book to read to help centre and calm him. I loved the historical references to books and TV shows that I recognised – I won’t mention them all here, but there were a few in particular that made me happy in my heart.
QuoteBut – yes there’s a but. It felt like this was a book I’d have really loved if I’d read it at another time, but today it was just a book I pretty much enjoyed. I think that’s on me rather than the intricately detailed world that Garth Nix has created. If fantasy in mostly recognisable worlds is your thing, and you love a good book which values books and bookstores as part of its narrative, I’d recommend giving The Left-Handed Booksellers of London a go. I’d like to think I could be a left handed bookseller, but I’m pretty sure I’d be more likely to be a right handed one. And that’s ok too.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 76/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 30 2020

They both die at the end, by Adam Silvera

The both die at the end

They both die at the end, by Adam Silvera

Title: They both die at the end
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre/ issues: YA. Queer fiction. Friendship. Death.

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 Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera. Sigh. They really did, huh? I mean, it’s right there on the cover. I’ve seen countless reviews where people talked about hoping against hope that they’d get to the end and discover that Rufus and Mateo made it past the end alive and intact. I guess, once I met them, I was just holding out hope that this had all been some elaborate ruse that everyone was in on, and I’d finish the book to discover they made it ok too. Sigh.
So, the premise is fairly simple. Roughly current day, but there’s a corporation that has the ability to know who is going to die, so from midnight people who are scheduled to die at some point in the next 24 hours get the call. They know it’s their last day, and they get to decide how to live it, and who to live it with. Rufus and Mateo live very different lives, but have their own reasons for seeking out a stranger, a fellow Decker, to share their last day with. What follows is an epic 24 hours – well, slightly less than 24 I guess – in which these two amazing souls criss-cross New York and get to know each other, and themselves, much better. I love the interplay of other characters’ lives, some weaving in very briefly with our main characters, others recurring, but all impacting in some way on the course of this heartbreaking and beautiful final day. How would you spend tomorrow if you knew it was your last? Would you be happy with how you spent today? I’m leaving this book reflecting on what’s important to me, and what’s really not in the grand scheme of things. It’s a beautiful read.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 75/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 22 2020

Future girl, by Asphyxia

Future girl front cover

Future girl, by Asphyxia

Title: Future Girl
Author: Asphyxia
Genre/ issues: Illustrated novel. Near future dystopia. Food insecurity. Deaf community and sign language. Censorship.

I finished this wonder of a novel today, and I’m feeling all the feelings. Visually stunning is a given – check out these interior shots, or head over to Asphyxia’s website for more of their stunning artwork!! The narrative voice of Future Girl is so powerful and compelling.
This is Piper’s art journal, and I love how the colour and intensity of the art and collage in the pages reflects her journey as she negotiates complex relationships with her mother, her friend and her new maybe boyfriend, as well as her relationship with food in a near-future Melbourne dealing with a food crisis.
We also gain deep insight into her experience of life as a d/Deaf person in a hearing world, and how powerful and important it is to be able to communicate on your own terms. Piper’s struggle to communicate as a Deaf person is effectively paralleled with the growing concerns over increasing censorship in a world where communication is all filtered through a monolithic IT corporation. Asphyxia plays beautifully with the idea of voice – spoken, written, signed, painted or texted, our voices matter, and EVERYONE should have the right to use theirs.
I’ve always been interested in learning to sign, but I have to confess to previously not having fully understood the depth, complexity and beauty of signing as its own distinct and unique language. This book was eye-opening to me about some of the issues around accessible communication for the deaf community. I know that I’ll always be a hearing person who can sign a little, and that my relationship with this language will always be as an outsider, but it’s something that I’m committed to starting to learn now, rather than just always thinking about it. This book is a wonder, and it’s high on the list of best books I’ve read this year, and ones I’ll be recommending for a long time to come.
Future girl interior page

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 72/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 10 2020

The extraordinaries, by TJ Klune

The extraordinaries

The extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Title: The extraordinaries
Author: TJ Klune
Genre/ issues: YA. Superheroes. Friendship. Queer fiction. Mental health.

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 love a good superhero story. Can’t get enough YA fiction. And books with great queer characters? Sign me up. I read The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune earlier this year and it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read, this year and for a long time before that really. So I was excited to read some more of their work.

The Extraordinaries tells the story of Nick, who struggles with his ADHD, has a fantastic group of friends, and writes a popular fanfiction about the superheroes in Nova City with a heavy dose of teen lust over Shadow Star. If I had to describe this book in one sentence, I’d say it’s what The Boys would be if it was a wholesome quirky queer YA novel.

I personally found some of the plot twists a bit predictable, but that didn’t in any way minimise my enjoyment of it – and, let’s face it, a mid-40s cishet woman is probably not the target audience for this book! I loved the characters – Nick’s feelings for Seth and his bow ties, Jazz and Gibby’s banter, and Nick’s dad’s overwhelming desire to protect his son all felt really authentic and engaging. The way that Nick’s struggle with ADHD is represented was particularly great, and I think would resonate will readers who deal with this themselves. I’m assuming given the stinger at the very end that we’ll see more in this universe, and I’m here for it.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 64/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

September 28 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