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 25 2020

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Fifth Season

The Fifth Season, by NK Jemisin

Title: The Fifth Season
Author: NK Jemisin
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Science fantasy. Dystopia.

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.

 

Well. This book has taken me 2 weeks to read – not because I’ve been a reading slump, or have found it lacking in engagement, but because it’s so deeply complex and intricate that to rush it felt like paying a disservice to the incredible word that NK Jemisin has created.

This book is unlike anything I’ve read. A science fantasy in a completely original style – no comparisons to Tolkien here, a stunning diversity of race but described in its own unique way with descriptions that take some time to get your head around because they don’t rely on comparisons to any racial features or characteristics that we’re used to. Diversity, too, in the depiction of sexual and emotional relationships. The world ends, and this book carries you through one such ending, as we are introduced to “roggas”, a derogatory term for erogenes, who have the genetic ability to literally control the earth, but are feared and often reviled for their difference even though their skill is essential in maintaining and protecting life and civilisations.

This is the first book in the Broken Earth series, and both book 1 and 2 won Hugo awards. I’m not surprised, quite frankly. Jacob had already read this, and I bought him the box set for his birthday, but then cheekily decided to read The Fifth Season before sending them to him. Thank you, Jacob, I’m really looking forward to us reading the rest of the series together. A truly stunning read. 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 55/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 25 2020

Stamped from the beginning: the definitive history of racist ideas in America

Stamped from the beginning

Stamped from the beginning, by Ibram X Kendi

Title: Stamped from the beginning
Author: Ibram X Kendi
Genre/ issues: Non-fiction. Race. Racism. History.

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 this book by Ibram X Kendi months ago – I had ordered the YA version but it’s still not arrived, and in the meantime I found the audiobook available for free on Spotify. I highly recommend it – a thoughtful and comprehensive examination of the history of racist ideas in America, and how and why anti-racist actions and sentiments often fail. It’s taken me a long time to get through it because I found it really thought-provoking, and oftentimes wanted to just let some ideas sit for a bit before I moved on.
Hot tip for listening to the Spotify audiobook version- pay attention to where you’re up to. If you don’t, and then go off and listen to something else, you won’t be able to find your place when you come back to it. Even bigger hot tip – do NOT accidentally bump the shuffle button. It makes things VERY hard to follow.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 54/100

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 7 2020

Snowpiercer, volumes 1 and 2

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer, vol 1 and 2

Title: Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape and Snowpiercer Volume 2: The Explorers
Author: Benjamin Legrand
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Climate destruction. Class. Graphic novel.

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’ve been working backwards in my journey with Snowpiercer. I started with the TV series, watched the movie, and then tonight I read volume 1 and 2 of the source material, the graphic novel translated from the French. Black and white artwork helps to underscore the stark landscape and even more grim future that humanity survives in, on Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long. If you’re into graphic novels and have enjoyed the series, this is a great read. I think the TV show is still my favourite out of all of the versions of this story so far, but I really enjoyed reading the origin in these two volumes, and am looking forward to the third one arriving soon. For my TL followers, this one probably isn’t a good YA read – it’s mature, adult and graphic in multiple senses of the word.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 50/52 and 51/52

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 26 2020

Sandman sundays

Sandman

Sandman, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Supernatural. Mythology. Fantasy.

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.

Sandman is arguably one of Neil Gaiman’s most well-known and wide-ranging creations. A stunning comic series, it’s been republished in a few different formats, and the Omnibus edition is one of the most treasured items in my collection. My ex-husband gave me volume one as one of the last gifts of our relationship – and, it must be said, as one of the only gifts he gave me that showed he knew what mattered to me. The second volume was a gift to myself, shortly after our divorce was finalised and I decided to treat myself to something I really wanted. And volume 3? Well, my wonderful partner gave me that for Valentine’s Day this year. So, it’s safe to say that the whole collection is meaningful to me in more ways than just the epic and fantastic story it contains.

The wonder that is Dirk Maggs is responsible for another fantastic incarnation of Sandman – the audiobook adaptation. It’s sensational, and I’ve been listening to parts of it each Sunday since it came out, and reading along with the comics. So far I’ve listened to the chapters that would have comprised Volume 1 and 2 of the graphic novel editions – Preludes and Nocturnes (#1-8 of the comics) and The Doll House (#9-16). I’m counting the graphic novel editions towards my book tally, rather than the Omnibus, which is 4 graphic novels combined, and also longer than the first installment of the audiobook.

The audio cast is stunning – a who’s who of the entertainment industry. Standouts for me so far have been Kat Denning as Death, the fantastic quirky goth girl who is one of my favourite characters, James McAvoy as Morpheus, and Michael Sheen as Lucifer. The stunning audioproduction is tied together with narration from Neil himself, sometimes reading the narrative elements of the original comic, and sometimes filling in additional details that are needed for context without the visual elements on the page. It’s a masterpiece, and I’m very glad I have it – even if it meant I had to break my self-imposed Am@zon ban, as it’s only available on Audible.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 47/52 and 48/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 20 2020

The Track series, books 1 and 2

Tracks

Ghost and Patina, by Jason Reynolds

Title: The Track series: Ghost and Patina
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Sports. Family. Friendship.

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 read the first 2 books in Jason Reynolds’ Track series a few weeks ago and loved them. I was planning on posting about them all when I finished the series, but I’ve hit a slump so I’m leaving book 3 and will come back to them later, so here’s a quick review on Ghost and Patina so I don’t forget them in my #2020readingchallenge tally.

I’ve probably read more sportsing books this year than I have in my whole life – I’m making an effort to expand my reading horizons and explore genres and themes I’d usually skip over. This series is a fab middle grade read, 4 books about 4 different members of the same track team, who all deal with their own family and personal issues. Ghost, the eponymous character from the first book in the series, lives with his mother whilst his father is in prison for attempting to shoot them both. He is dealing with bullying at school, and is struggling to find his place, and to be seen for who he is. The metaphor of running in this book sets up a beautiful through line for the stories that are to come. Patina, in book 2, attends an elite private school and lives with her aunt, as her mum is unable to care for her because of her complex medical conditions. They both joined the track team at the same time, but are running their own races, literally and figuratively.
These are both great books, and I love the way Jason writes. He’s definitely one of my favourite author finds of the year.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 45/52 and 46/52

Happy reading,

Tamara