May 9 2020

Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Title: Dragon Hoops
Author: Gene Luan Yang
Genre/ issues: Graphic novels. Sports. Race. Life journeys.

Shop local where you can: search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia.

In order to get myself out of a bit of a reading slump, I’ve been smashing though some books that are new styles and genres to me. Graphic novels and comics have been high on my list lately, but I usually pass right on by sportsing books. This one looked interesting though, and that first impression was upheld by the wonder contained in its pages. A graphic novel from the point of view of the author, a teacher at a school whose basketball team were headed for a State championship, and who was looking for a new story, Dragon Hoops is fascinating. Part personal narrative, part historical exposition, part cultural analysis, it doesn’t shy away from dealing with difficult topics, like the former coach of the school who faced historical sexual assault charges, or the questions about whether treatment of individual players may have been the result of unconscious racial bias. It’s self-reflective, thoughtful, gently humorous, and so compelling that it had this non-sportsing geek girl sitting on the edge of her seat hoping for a last minute win at the championships – even though, really, that’s not what the game is all about. It’s still satisfying though, right?
The recurring motif of the importance of a single step, small but so powerful, really struck me, and had me thinking about all those steps I’ve taken in my life.
This is a compelling graphic novel. I thought I’d read it and then pass it along to someone else, but I loved it so much that I’ve just added it to my newly-created graphics shelf on my bookcase. Off to stalk the author, and get everything else he’s worked on. I love his style. 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 25/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

May 8 2020

Ms Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal

Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel

Title: Ms Marvel, Vol.1: No Normal
Author: G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Artist)
Genre/ issues: Graphic novels. Comics. Superheros. Culture, religion and identity.

“Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!”

When I said I wanted to get back into reading comics, this was on my list, and I was thrilled to open the mail this week to discover that Jacob had lent me his copy! I LOVED this. Smart, funny, beautiful artwork and some really thoughtful reflections on religion, identity, individuality and the way we value people in society. Definitely getting some more Ms. Marvel in my life!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 24/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

April 28 2020

Paper Girls 1

Paper Girls 1

Paper Girls 1

Title: Paper Girls 1 
Author: Brian K. Vaughan (Goodreads Author), Cliff Chiang (Illustrator), Matthew Wilson (Colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (Lettering)
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Comic books. Mystery. Sci-fi. Coming of age.

Another installment of Tamara Reads Comics tonight, with Paper Girls 1. A suburban supernatural mystery, with stunning atmospheric illustrations and some really interesting commentary on life in the late 80’s. It represents the 80’s aesthetic really well, both in terms of the visuals and the attitudes, and I felt very much like this could have been set in my smalltown Australia as much as it was smalltown USA.

I felt like this one a much slower burn than my previous comic reads – I was just feeling like I was getting a handle on what was happening and was starting to feel invested in the story when we hit the end. Regardless, I really enjoyed this, and will be checking out the next volume, as much for the art as for the story!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 20/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

April 28 2020

Lumberjanes: Beware the kitten holy

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the kitten holy

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the kitten holy

Title: Lumberjanes Vol1: Beware the Kitten Holy
Author: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Faith Hicks, Brooke A. Allen (Illustrator), Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carolyn Nowak (Illustrator), Carey Pietsch (Illustrator)
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Comic books. Fantasy. Mystery.

I’ve been wanting to get back into reading comics again for a while now. I remember loving them when I was a kid, but I grew up in a town with no comic store so was limited to whatever Archie and Casper comics the newsagents would occasionally get in. I’ve seen so many great comics released in recent years, and whilst I want to read them, it’s quite overwhelming to figure out just where to start! So, in my “supporting independent stores” focus for #iso2020 I hit up some comic nerds for advice, signed up for a Kings Comics gold card, and ordered me some comics! 

Lumberjanes is one that I’ve been hearing about for a while, so it was the first that I delved into when my parcel of comicky goodness arrived. Volume 1, Beware the kitten holy, is a collection of editions 1 to 4 of the Lumberjanes comics, and I adored it. The blurb reads:

“At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.”

It’s quirky, funny, a great balance of mystery and action, with some fab positive representations of female characters of all kinds. I’ll definitely be going back for more of this female-created comic about the creepy happenings at the summer camp for “hard-core lady types”. An utter delight, and a great place to start back into my comic reading adventures!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 19/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

April 19 2020

Aurora Burning, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Burning, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Burning, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Title: Aurora Burning: The Aurora Cycle, Book 2
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Finding your people. Family – born and chosen.

Sometimes you have plans for the weekend. Mow the lawn? Sure. Clean the carpets? I mean, that is why you borrowed your mum’s carpet shampooer. Maybe even read one of the many books on your TBR shelf. But then you get post on Saturday. And that post contains this firecracker of a book. So, you read it instead.

I will say, I’m glad I didn’t get this too early – I often get review copies of books well before the release date. Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff comes out next week I think, and I’m so glad that I’ve just read it – if I got it much earlier than I did, I’d have far longer to wait for book three, because the ENDING IS A HELL OF A CLIFFHANGER! That’s not spoilery at all. If you’ve read anything from the dastardly duo of K+K you’ll know that they are sadistic bastards who thrive on causing pain for their readers. And boy, do I want more of their delicious brand of torture.

I loved the character development of #Squad312 in this book. I love the complexity of relationships. I love the diversity represented amongst this glorious group – from physical differences, to dealing with emotional dissociation from PTSD, to some positive queer representation, to contrasting depictions of family connections, there’s something in here for everyone. Sci-fi is definitely my bag, and these two authors are masters of their craft. I’d definitely recommend this one when it hits the shelves – if you’ve not read Aurora Rising, though, grab that first!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 17/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

April 17 2020

The Magnolia Sword: A ballad of Mulan, by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword, by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword, by Sherry Thomas

Title: The Magnolia Sword: A ballad of Mulan
Author: Sherry Thomas
Genre/ issues: Historical fiction. YA. Retelling of a traditional/ familiar story. Gender roles.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. In fact, when I scrolled back to find out what number I was up to in my #2020readingchallenge I had to go back to March 9. Whilst I’ve been encouraging others to find solace and inspiration during this pandemic in stories, I’ve been struggling to do the same for myself.

At the beginning of the year, I started running a Thursday lunchtime #ReadWithMe session. Rather than eating lunch at my desk, I’d make the effort to take a book into the kitchen, sit, and read for half an hour. I’d take in a pile of anthologies and collections of non-fiction essays so that anyone who wanted to join us but didn’t have a book they were reading could pick something up and get through it in the session without feeling pressured to commit to a whole book. Now were are all working remotely, I’ve been continuing to encourage others to do this, but hadn’t been fully committing myself, so last week, I dragged myself to the couch during cracked open this gem of a book.

I finished it that night. Such a beautiful, sensitive and culturally respectful retelling of the ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas deals with issues of gender and power, the dangers of stereotyped expectations, and the problems of homogenising culture. It’s particularly powerful a message now as we are surrounded by so much hatred and anger being directed at China and its people – this book speaks to the importance of allowing people to find their own path, and not be victimised or tied down by expectations or identities that don’t fit them. Some great queer relationships that are delightfully represented, and some great reflections on the power of language and its role in representing history and a people’s place in it.
I do love me a Disney musical, but this book pays far greater respect to the story of Mulan than I’ve seen before – although I’m not gonna lie, there were moments that I broke out in an internal chorus of “let’s get down to business!”

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 16/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

February 26 2020

Euphoria Kids, by Alison Evans

Euphoria Kids book cover

Euphoria Kids, by Alison Evans

Title: Euphoria Kids
Author: Alison Evans
Genre/ issues: Magic realism. Fantasy. Queer fiction. Gender identify/ euphoria.

Sigh. I’ve loved the first two books by Alison Evans, so when I heard they had a new one coming out I knew I’d have to read it. This is my favourite of their work so far. A magical story about 3 gender diverse teens who get to explore a world in which gender euphoria is their experience rather than the debilitating gender dysphoria that is so common for people questioning how they see themselves in society’s gender binary. The notion of being SEEN is also a powerful element of this book – both literally for Babs, who had been cursed by a witch and so disappears sometimes without warning, and figuratively for characters like the boy, a trans male who becomes friends with Babs and Iris after they see him for him, and accept his identity and pronouns while he figures out what his name is. The fairies, dryads, witches and spells aren’t what makes this book magic – it’s the sensitive, joyful and lyrical way that Alison weaves this splendid tale. Beautifully written and beautifully told, this is a wonderful book. I’m so thrilled to have gotten to read this and I’ll be gifting it to a lot of special people in my life. 

I’ve been recording TikToks on some of my favourite books, so I’m testing out embedding them here … let me know if read this what you think about including the videos. Do you like them? Do you not care? I’m curious as to whether you think it’s worth the effort to embed the videos here!

@tamarareadsEuphoria Kids by Alison Evans ##queer ##loveozya ##bookreview ##magic ##gendereuphoria ##60secondbookreview♬ original sound – tamarareads

 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 13/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

February 12 2020

Run, Rebel, by Manjeet Mann

Run, Rebel, by Manjeet Mann

Run, Rebel, by Manjeet Mann

Title: Run, Rebel
Author: Manjeet Mann
Genre/ issues: Verse novel, YA, contemporary issues.

Well. Books that bring me to tears, part 2. This uncorrected proof arrived in my world yesterday, and I read it last night. It’s long, but it’s a verse novel, so a relatively quick read. It’s not easy though, with some pretty heavy content. A patriarchal family with an abusive alcoholic at the head, both parents dealing with illiteracy, and the mother working a cash-in-hand sweatshop job. A teenager who is a talented runner but has limited resources and parental support to pursue this. The impacts of poverty, and privilege, and generational trauma. It’s heavy going, but the beauty of the poetry makes it somehow easier to bear. It had me thinking about my own experiences as a teacher – was I always as sensitive as I could have been to the kid falling asleep in my class? Did I make assumptions about resourcing and support that may have been out of the realm of possibility for some of my students? I think I was possibly one of the better ones, but I don’t know that I always got that right.
Built around the framework of An Anatomy of A Revolution – how do you overthrow an oppressive regime? – this book is stunning. It’s out next month. Please read it.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 11/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

February 11 2020

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Title: Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre/ issues: YA, LQBTQI+, diverse fiction, contemporary themes.

I don’t often listen to audiobooks at home, but Kelsey warned me I shouldn’t be in public when I finished this one, so I listened to the last hour or so of it last night. It was a good tip. There were messy tears. A beautiful, sensitive, sweet and smart book that I wish I’d read earlier. Aristotle is angry a lot of the time, and he doesn’t really know why. He meets Dante, and they strike up an instant connection. Two Mexican American boys with different families and experiences weave their way through this book to try and figure out the secrets of the universe. Do they get there? Maybe. You’ll have to read it to find out. But I feel like I understand it a little better now. The audiobook was beautifully narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda, and the print copy I stole off Kelsey is now dog-eared with many marked pages and passages that I’ll revisit in the future. A gem of a book.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 10/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

January 12 2020

How it feels to float, by Helena Fox

How it feels to float, by Helena Fox

How it feels to float, by Helena Fox

TitleHow it feels to float
AuthorHelena Fox
Genre/ issues: YA, mental health, family/ relationships.

There were tiny oceans in my eyes as I finished this exquisite book on the train home tonight. At one point I couldn’t make out the words of the final chapters as the tears overtook me. Mental illness is something quite difficult to capture beautifully on a page, isn’t it? Helena Fox has created something quite extraordinary in the world of Biz.

The blurb of the book says:

“Biz knows how to float. She has her people, her posse, her mom and the twins. She has Grace. And she has her dad, who tells her about the little kid she was, and who shouldn’t be here but is. So Biz doesn’t tell anyone anything. Not about her dark, runaway thoughts, not about kissing Grace or noticing Jasper, the new boy. And she doesn’t tell anyone about her dad. Because her dad died when she was seven. And Biz knows how to float, right there on the surface–normal okay regular fine.

“But after what happens on the beach–first in the ocean, and then in the sand–the tethers that hold Biz steady come undone. Dad disappears and, with him, all comfort. It might be easier, better, sweeter to float all the way away? Or maybe stay a little longer, find her father, bring him back to her. Or maybe–maybe maybe maybe–there’s a third way Biz just can’t see yet.

“This is a mesmerizing, radiant debut, at once heart-rending, humorous, and impossible to put down. Helena Fox tells a story about love and grief and family and friendship, about inter-generational mental illness, and how living with it is both a bridge to someone loved and lost and, also, a chasm. She explores the hard, bewildering, and beautiful places loss can take us, and honors those who hold us tightly when the current wants to tug us out to sea.”

The metaphor of floating is pervasive in this wonder of a debut novel, and as someone who has dealt with anxiety, depression and at one particularly low point in my life persistent suicidal ideations, I could completely recognise and empathise with that feeling of not being in control, of wanting to just give up and let the waves of mental illness carry me away. I found myself gasping frequently as I read, completely overwhelmed with Fox’s extraordinarily skillful and beautiful use of language.

I’d implore you all to read this book, and I totally believe you all should, but I also think you need to make sure that you’re in the right headspace to gently ease your way through someone else’s trauma. Books like this, that offer a window into a personal experience of mental health, are important in so many ways – they help provide a sense of visibility to those who are or have dealt with something similar, and they provide a sense of empathy to those who have not experienced anything like this in their lives. It’s also important, though to take care of yourself, so if these issues sound like something you’re in the throes of dealing with, then maybe this is a “later” book for you.  I’ll be buying many, many copies of this, and I know it’s a big call not even halfway through January, but I’m happy to call it my book of the year.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 4/52

Happy reading,

Tamara