December 23 2020

Nerdy babies: rocks, by Emmy Kastner

Nerdy kids

Nerdy babies: rocks! by Emmy Kastner

Title: Nerdy babies: Rocks
Author: Emmy Kastner
Genre/ issues: Picture books. Rocks/ geology. Non-fiction. Science.

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.

A lovely picture book, from what looks like a great series, Nerdy Babies: Rocks delves into the complex world of rocks around us! With language that is accessible for younger readers, it also features a great sampling of scientific language and explores the paths that a fascination with rocks can lead you on. I love a good non-fiction picture book, and whilst this isn’t up there with the CSIRO ones for me, it’s super cute and a lovely addition on a shelf for your early readers, or as a readaloud.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 99/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 20 2020

Peta Lyre’s rating normal

Peta Lyre's rating normal

Peta Lyre’s rating normal, by Anna Whateley

Title: Peta Lyre’s rating normal
Author: Anna Whateley
Genre/ issues: Contemporary YA. Neurodivergence. Queer fiction.

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’ve had this sitting on my shelf for a while now, and finally started it last week. Straight to the top 10 best books I’ve read this year (which I think currently contains about 16 books – I’m an English teacher, not a maths one). Peta Lyre rates her life, based on how successfully she thinks she manages the complex social interactions around her via the rules she’s developed as part of her therapy to help her develop more “normal” behaviours. When Peta falls for the new girl at school, she needs to decide which rules matter, and if she can be normal without them.
I loved the queer romance in this book. I love the complexity and diversity of the characters. I loved the references to Frankenstein woven throughout, as Peta navigates her own thoughts on finding a way to belong, to fit in, to figure out how to do typical. I love the way that Anna Whateley frames the challenges that Peta faces as a neurodivergent character without reducing her to a stereotype – a result in equal parts due to her talent as an author as well as being a reflection of her innate understanding of neurodivergence through her own experiences.
This is a YA novel full of heart, with a number of characters finding their way to live their own normal. Highly recommended.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 98/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 20 2020

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The graveyard book, held by Jacob

The graveyard book, by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Urban 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.

It’s no secret that Neil Gaiman is my favourite author, and I usually love him narrating his own work. Over the past month or so, I’ve gotten to experience The Graveyard Book as read by my all-time favourite narrator – my wonderful partner Jacob.

One of our long-distance date night traditions is us reading something together – which usually means I lay in bed with an unopened copy of the book on my bedside table, and he reads to me. The greatest joy of this particular novel was getting to share the final few chapters in person, curled up on my couch, and not separated by thousands of kilometres.

The book itself? Wonderful. One of my favourites of Neil’s (aren’t they all though?) There’s such depth and complexity to this tale of Nobody Owens, orphaned as a toddler at the hands of a mysterious murderer who would have slaughtered Bod too if he wasn’t adopted by ghosts and granted the freedom of the graveyard. A funny, smart, thoughtful and tear-filled story of life in the midst of death. Bonus review content: Jacob’s potential “serious voice actor” headshot. His work is great, but usually performed to an exclusive audience of 1. I’d recommend booking him for your next narration project but I plan on keeping him pretty busy – we have more Gaiman to get through.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 97/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 13 2020

Brightly woven, by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly woven

Brightly woven, by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Brightly woven
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre/ issues: Graphic novel. Fantasy. Magic.

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.

Brightly Woven is a graphic novel adaptation of the 2010 YA fantasy novel by Alexandra Bracken. A lovely story about magic and the balance required to wield it, as well as the power in discovering your own skills. I enjoyed this beautifully illustrated narrative – a great, uncomplicated and accessible fantasy graphic for upper primary or secondary school readers.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 96/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 6 2020

Invisible boys, by Holden Sheppard

Invisible boys

Invisible boys, by Holden Sheppard

Title: The midnight library
Author: Holden Sheppard
Genre/ issues: Contemporary YA. Queer fiction. Small town life.

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.

Holden Sheppard had a pretty shit homophobic experience with a bookseller at a conference recently. He posted about it on his Instagram – you can read the details there. As I was searching for my next read this morning, I spotted his book on my shelf and figured now is as good a time as any to check it out.
Well. I am destroyed by Invisible Boys. The story of three guys who attend the same small-town catholic school, all with different backgrounds and experiences, but all with a secret they want desperately to hide about themselves. This book is written from alternating perspectives, and Sheppard balances the representation of three very different characters with similar inner turmoils beautifully. This isn’t a pleasant book to read – but it’s not supposed to be. It’s powerful, and important, and it makes me think about the people I knew in my small-town catholic school. A few of my school friends came out as gay either at school or years after, and I know for some of them it was way harder than it should have been. I think about the students I teach, and I’m reminded how important it is that they all feel seen, and more importantly that they all feel SAFE to be seen. If you’re a teacher or TL, I can’t recommend this highly enough. It might be a little full-on or graphic to teach in your school context – you’ll have to be the judge of that. But it’s an important read, and a compelling narrative. Life shouldn’t be like this. No one deserves to feel invisible.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 95/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 6 2020

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

audio

The midnight library, by Matt Haig

Title: The midnight library
Author: Matt Haig
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Finding your purpose.

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.

When a book has a chapter heading “God and other librarians”, I can’t help but feel it’s been written specifically for me. And in Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, that’s kind of the point. But first, trigger warnings: suicidal ideation/ action. Depression, anxiety, drug & alcohol abuse/ addiction.
Nora is deeply unsatisfied with her life & is filled with regrets – alone, no meaningful relationships, she lost her job and her cat died. She decides she doesn’t want to see tomorrow, and does something about it.
She finds herself in the Midnight Library – existing only in the moment between life and death, as time doesn’t shift past 0:00:00, and curated by her school librarian, the Midnight Library is an inexhaustible collection of possible future lives for Nora, if only one thing had been different. Each potential alternative lives on the shelves in books with covers of varying thicknesses and in varying shades of green.
This novel deals with some complex topics, delving into theories of philosophy which was appropriately Nora’s major at university, as well as deep scientific concepts such as the multiverse and string theory. Despite this, it’s fairly easy to follow, with a linear narrative that carries you through Nora’s explorations of her possible lives if only she’d done something different – she ponders at one point, “Are there any other lives at all, or is it just the furnishings that change?”
There are moments of desperate sadness in this book, and whilst I found the beginning stronger than the end, it was compelling enough that I started listening to the audiobook yesterday morning when mowing the lawn, and laid in bed finishing it last night, reaching the final few words, appropriately, just as the clock hit midnight.
What would your book of regrets contain? I know mine contains a lot of things that I wish I could undo – mostly because of their impact on others than on me. But I hope that, most days, I’m more ok than not with the current volume of my life, depression and anxiety and regrets and all. Whilst I love the concept of The Midnight Library, I’m ok with not visiting it – although I do know without question who the librarian would be.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 94/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

December 4 2020

Faith: Valiant comics

Faith comic

Faith, by Jody Houser et al

Title: Faith
Genre/ issues: Comics. Superhero. Plus size rep.

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 love a good superhero comic. I’m a fan of texts which feature positive representation of plus-sized characters. And this Valiant comic series, Faith, is a pretty good example of both of these things. It’s perhaps not excellent, though. I have the deluxe edition, which binds up the first three TP editions, and today I read Volume 1 – Hollywood and Vine.
Faith is lovely, and has suitably engaging quirky and nerdy interests. What threw me a bit is how inconsistent the drawing of her is. It’s like the artists couldn’t quite decide how fat she should look, and whilst the size of her stomach is pretty consistent, her relative proportions and her facial structure were distractingly variable for me. I’m not sure if I was overly conscious of it because of my own ongoing issues with my double/triple chin, and if this kind of body variability is common across comics but I don’t notice them in other comics like I do in Faith because I’m overly invested in the depiction of a fat girl on the page. Either way, it was enjoyable. I’ll definitely read the other 2 volumes at some point, and I’m happy to have this on my shelf.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 93/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

November 29 2020

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Are you there, God? Book cover

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Title: Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Genre/ issues: Middle grade/ YA. Adolescence. Family. Friends. Religion. Puberty. 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.

I remember reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret when I was in year 7 at a catholic high school in a small country town – many, MANY years ago. I have a vague memory that there were a group of us who passed the Judy Blume books around among us, like a clandestine secret, but I can’t actually remember if they were banned from our library, or we had heard rumours about them being banned elsewhere, so we felt all renegade and rebellious. I suspect it was the latter, because I never felt restricted in my reading choices from our small country town catholic school library – I am the reader I am today in part because of the literary journeys I took whilst there.
Revisiting Margaret today was a joy. I remember feeling completely seen by her – or, rather, in seeing parts of myself in her experiences, and in the paths taken by Nancy and Laura in particular. Despite being 50 years old this year, the struggles of Margaret and her friends hold up now. I think that’s probably a testament to how ground-breaking and revolutionary it was at the time of its original publication. Thank you, Judy. I’ll be revisiting more of your work soon, I think. There are a lot of old friends I feel the need to catch up with. It’s been far too long.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 92/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

November 28 2020

Gaiman graphics love

Gaiman graphics

Likely Stories and Snow, Glass, Apples, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Snow, Glass, Apples
Author:
Neil Gaiman
Illustrator:
Colleen Doran

Title: Likely Stories
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Mark Buckingham

Genre/ issues: Horror. Illustrated stories. Fairytale retelling. Urban horror.

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 have a secret to tell you. Are you ready? It’s going to be earth-shattering to you all.
*deep breath*
I love @neilhimself.
There, I said it.
It’s Sunday, I’ve just had a Covid test so I’m isolating until I get the results (something new and different for me!) so instead of working on my NaNoWriMo project, I’m working my way some comics and graphics that I’ve collected but not yet gotten around to reading. Holy crapballs, these two are stunning!
Not for children nor the faint of heart, Snow, Glass, Apples is a retelling of the Snow White story completely unlike the Disney fairytale you’re used to. It’s not like any version, really. A chilling reimagining of a familiar tale, with the most breathtaking illustrations by Colleen Doran. I’m feeling a little off-kilter after finishing it, and I guess that’s the point. If you’ve not seen this masterpiece, I’d highly recommend it. Warning – very adult. This is not for the children obsessed with fairytales in your life. It depicts (spoilers ahead – skip to next paragraph if you don’t want to know!) sex, vampirism including a child vampire sucking blood from her father’s nether regions, slaughter and a being burned alive. I told you, chilling. But utterly beautiful and compelling.
Likely Stories  is an anthology of 4 creepy stories, artfully illustrated in traditional comic strip panel style by Mark Buckingham. I’d seen an animated version of Feeders and Eaters once, and had heard Closing Time as an audio story, but the other 2 were new to me. Disturbing and leaving you a bit on edge in that signature Gaiman style, this is a wonderful collection – as long as you’re ok with that lingering wondering following you around for days after you finish reading. I think I need to find something a bit more uplifting to finish off my weekend!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 90-91/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

November 28 2020

The Greatest Hit, by Will Kostakis

Greatest Hit

The Greatest Hit, by Will Kostakis

Title: The Greatest Hit
Author: Will Kostakis
Genre/ issues: YA. Quick reads. 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.

What if people thought the most interesting thing about you was the moment you went viral? This novella from @willkostakis for @australiareads was a great quick read. Kostakis captures the teenage voice with such compassion and authenticity that his work is always a delight to read – and it didn’t hurt that he wrote something nice about me in the inscription when he signed it for me too!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 89/100

Happy reading,

Tamara