July 27 2021

Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr

Title: Letter from Birmingham Jail
Author: Martin Luther King, Jr
Genre/ issues: Non fiction. Civil rights.

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.

The Penguin Modern collection is a fantastic set of books from ground-breaking writers, presenting a distilled hit of their work, philosophies and ideas. I’m aiming to read one a night – most nights, anyway! I might as well come out of lockdown a little bit more enlightened and informed, right? The first book in the collection is Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which includes both the letter he wrote in the margins of a newspaper whilst in jail in 1963, and Three Dimensions of a Complete life, first delivered as a sermon in 1967.
What struck me as I read this was that I’d probably have considered myself familiar with King’s work and influence. I know the famous speeches. I’m aware of his impact and importance in the civil rights movement. But outside those sound bites, I’ve not actually read any of his other writings. And wow, can he write. There’s a power and poetry to his words. But what hit me the most about this was the tragedy of it. That almost 60 years later, what he’s arguing for and pleading for is still so desperately needed. His description of the immorality of the way Birmingham police treated people of colour in the midst of non-violent protest could so easily have been applied to scenes from a BLM march today. This reminded me that I have a part to play. We all do. A powerful little read. Next time you’re placing an online order for books, check this series out – at only $2.50 a book, they’re well worth it!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 115/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 27 2021

Another pile of picture books

Picture booksTitle: The inheritance
Author: Armin Greder
Genre/ issues: Capitalism. Greed.

Title: Flight
Author: Nadia Wheatley
Illustrator: Armin Greder
Genre/ issues: Refugee journeys.

Title: If the world were 100 people
Author: Jackie McCann
Illustrator: Aaron Cushley
Genre/ issues: World issues.

Title: The lost girl
Author: Ambelin Kwaymullina
Illustrator: Leanne Tobin
Genre/ issues: Aboriginal stories. Connection with the land. Family.

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.

Some more picture books- and Armin Greder continues to cement himself as one of the most profoundly thought provoking picture book artists with his new offering, Inheritance. His stark and grim illustrations examine the impact of multinational corporations who are focused on cementing their own financial legacy, rather than demonstrating any awareness of their impact on the world and its future. A bleak and uncompromising view of corporate greed and power.
I unpacked a box the other day, in the hunt for a document, and found Greder’s collaboration with Nadia Wheatley, Flight. Examining the journey of a couple and their infant child in search of safety, there are initial allusions to the biblical story of Mary and Joseph following the star, but we then see the horror our refugee characters are fleeing from, and the uncertainty they find themselves in at the end of their flight to freedom – a camp, still yearning for freedom and home. A really powerful picture book.
The whole “let’s look at how the world would look if it were just 100 people” isn’t a new concept, but my third picture book for the day does a really wonderful job breaking down this metaphor and conveying it in pictographic illustrations with engaging and accessible text. Analysing proportionate data from appearance to lifestyle, education to environment, and access to resources such as housing, food, wealth and water, it’d be a great way to discuss global community with younger readers from Jackie McCann and Aaron Cushley.
And finally, Ambelin Kwaymullina’s and Leanne Tobin’s The Lost Girl. This was another box find, and its lovely. A young Aboriginal girl gets lost, and until she finds her human family is cared for by her surroundings, her Mother Earth. Rich, vibrant and earthy illustrations support Kwaymullina’s heartfelt and delightful narrative. I’m glad I rediscovered this one!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 108, 112-114/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 25 2021

Lost in the Never Woods, by Aiden Thomas

Lost in the never woods

Lost in the Never Woods, by Aiden Thomas

Title: Lost in the Never Woods
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre/ issues: YA. Fairytale retelling. Peter Pan.

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 Peter Pan. I’m a sucker for a fairytale reimagined or revisited. And I thoroughly enjoyed Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas when I read it earlier this year. So, when Lost in the Never Woods found itself on my TBR, it was an insta-read for me.
Wendy Darling has just turned 18. Her younger brothers have been missing for five years, and Wendy herself was missing for months as well, but returned with no memory of what happened. It’s a safe quiet town, but when other children start disappearing, the police come knocking on Wendy’s door to see if she has any answers. She doesn’t- but the boy she finds in the middle of the road might. Peter, who she thought only existed in her stories, needs her help. But in order to do so, Wendy is going to need to face her fears in the woods, and to revisit the traumas of her past … is she really ready for that?
This is a fabulous book, examining the impacts of trauma on the dynamic of the family and the people it touches. The last few chapters felt a little rushed to me, with some monologuing filling in details to get us to the end, but it didn’t detract overly from my enjoyment of it. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the purpose of Neverland and Peter’s role in caring for the lost boys. A solid 4.5/5 read for me, which solidifies Aiden Thomas as one of my favourite new author finds for 2021.
And, just an aside – this is book 111 for the year, which is as many books as I read in 2020! I wonder what this year’s total will be?

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 111/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 24 2021

Pirate Stew, by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew, by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

Title: Pirate Stew
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Genre/ issues: Picture books. Comedy.

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.

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell are possibly my favourite storyteller/illustrator combination. I heard Neil read Pirate Stew at his show in Perth last February, just before the world went mad, and I knew without question that Chris’ illustrations would be perfect. I was not wrong. A delightful tale of 2 siblings whose babysitters turn out to be pirates, and when dinner time arrives, their go-to recipe is for the eponymous pirate stew. The only problem? When you eat pirate stew, you become a pirate too! This is not what the children want, do they avoid consuming the concoction – but they do go on an epic piratical adventure! A jolly delight.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 110/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 24 2021

A meditation on mortality, by Elizabeth Zarb

Meditation on mortality

A meditation on mortality, by Elizabeth Zarb

Title: A meditation on mortality
Author: Elizabeth Zarb
Genre/ issues: Flash fiction. Mortality. 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.

I’ve been following @liz_zarb on TikTok for a while and have really enjoyed her content, so when she shared recently that her collection of flash fiction was now on sale, I tamped down my aversion to buying from Bezos and ordered it. What a wonderful read! A Meditation on Mortality is what you’d expect from the title, a collection of short pieces of writing about death and dying, exploring the multiplicity of emotions and moods that can surround this event that is truly the one thing that we all have in common.
Liz writes beautifully, and as well as enjoying this quick and powerful book as a reader, it had me reflecting deeply on myself and how I feel as a writer. I love to write. Most of what I write now is non-fiction – work proposals. Book reviews. Support articles. Stuff that I enjoy crafting for readability, but that doesn’t really hit the creative itch that lurks in my soul. I’ve got a novel bubbling away in the background, and I’ve been writing a bit more poetry recently, but flash fiction isn’t something I’d thought about before – and I don’t know why! So I think that’s going to be my August project. I’m leaving it until next month because I’m currently devoting far too much time to a secret squirrel writing task that I want to clear off my plate first, and if I start thinking about writing flash fiction now I’ll be procrastinating rather than finishing that!
Speaking of which – sigh. Off to keep working on it. Why is writing about yourself so hard? Thanks for this collection, Liz. A fab way to start my Saturday morning

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 109/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 18 2021

Flash Fire, by TJ Klune

Flash fire

Flash Fire, by TJ Klune

Title: Flash fire
Author: TJ Klune
Genre/ issues: Superheroes. Science fiction. 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.

“Perfect? Never.
Good? Always.”
I enjoyed The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune last year, so much so that I preordered the sequel- an honour usually reserved for Neil! The above quote from the sequel, Flash Fire, encapsulates for me how I feel about this series. I really enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to book 3. But there are times when I’m jarringly reminded that I’m probably not the target audience.
But I digress. Book 1 introduced us to Nick, who is obsessed by the extraordinaries in Nova City and writes a racy fanfic about PyroStorm, before discovering that he knows the superhero better than he realises! Book 2 sees us explore the developing relationships between both partners and parents, as well as some added complications. New extraordinaries arrive in the city, and figuring out who and what you can trust is a mammoth task, as Nick faces challenges to everything he knows about justice, family, and being extraordinary.
So, the good. Diverse and authentic representation of queer characters, and nuanced discussions of issues such as race and abuse of power in policing. Whilst the superpower plot raises questions that seem larger-than-life, the intimate and personal struggles of these wonderful characters really hooked me, despite some of the problems I had with it otherwise.
Ok, “problems” might be too strong a word. And I’m not bagging fan-fiction, but it’s just not my jam. So the framing of this book around the ongoing fanfic by Nick to his Extraordinary crush just did not hit for me. Don’t get me wrong – it ABSOLUTELY works for the book, the narrative and the character. As a reflection of a gay neurodivergent Nick obsessed with PyroStorm it’s perfection. So, my issues with it should be notched up to my own personal reading preferences, and not as an indication that this is badly written, because that’s not the case. TJ Klune is a fantastic author who skilfully creates unique and interesting characters that you care deeply about. Their writing is also clever, sensitive and smart, and one of the new Extraordinaries we meet in this book has a backstory and name that made me squeal with joy. More new adult than young adult, it’s a really fun read.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 107/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 8 2021

Story Doctors, by Boori Monty Pryor and Rita Sinclair

Story doctors

Story Doctors, by Boori Monty Pryor and Rita Sinclair

Title: Story Doctors
Author: Boori Monty Pryor
Illustrator: Rita Sinclair
Genre/ issues: Picture books. Indigenous stories.

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 usually post a pile of picture books at a time, but this one is worth sharing separately. Story Doctors by Boori Monty Pryor and Rita Sinclair examines the enduring power of stories to unite us and how nature connects us, through the long and deep history of Indigenous connection to and relationship with the

Story doctor image

 land. It reflects on the ability of nature and humanity to heal, both itself and ourselves. The powerful poetic message is supported by rich and evocative illustrations. A wonderful read for #naidocweek.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 106/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 5 2021

Watchmen , by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Title: Watchmen
Author: Allan Moore
Illustrator: Dave Gibbons
Genre/ issues: Comics. Sci-fi. Alternate History.

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.

“Who watches the Watchmen?” It’s a phrase I’ve been familiar with through pop culture, and when I started getting into comics last year, I kept seeing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal work appearing on best-of lists. On my first trip back to Perth in a year in February, Jacob bought me this stunning edition with the deliciously ASMR-inducing lenticular cover, and I have been fascinated exploring this depiction of an alternate reality, as the path of world events from WWII through to the Cold War was impacted by 2 generations of superheroes.
It starts with a murder, and the hunt for a killer, but quickly becomes a much larger and broader philosophical mystery that delves into notions of power, corruption and the meaning of life and humanity.
“A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally there’s no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts.” A stunning piece of work that is deserving of its acclaim, and of the reread I’m going to have to eventually give it in order to fully wrap my brain around the enormity of it.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 105/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 4 2021

Heroes of the secret underground, by Susanne Gervay

Heroes

Heroes of the secret underground, by Susanne Gervay

Title: Heroes of the secret underground
Author: Susanne Gervay
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Historical fiction. WW2. Timeslip.

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.

Historical fiction isn’t usually my genre, but when a dear friend writes a novel inspired by the experiences of her family, I’ll make an exception. Heroes of the Secret Underground by Susanne Gervay is a time slip novel in which Louie, Bert and Teddy find themselves transported from the grand old hotel they live in with their grandparents in Sydney, back to a world at war – Budapest, 1944. As Louie attempts to unravel the secrets of the rose-gold locket that acted as their portal to the past, she also uncovers other secrets that her grandparents never speak of – painful memories of a painful past that Louie and her brothers find themselves trapped in.
It’s often hard to effectively convey the pain and trauma of events such as war in narratives for younger readers, but this book does that really well. Susanne’s personal connection with this story – inspired by her own family’s escape from Budapest during the war – shines through, and there’s a real sense of love and heart in this novel. The enduring message of learning from the mistakes of the past is evident, and I love the emphasis on the power of each individual’s story to make a difference.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 104/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 2 2021

Lord and ladies, by Terry Pratchett

Lords and Ladies

Lords and ladies, by Terry Pratchett

Title: Lords and Ladies
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Comedy. Discworld.

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.

Whilst a long distance relationship isn’t always easy, there are some things I love about what Jacob and I share through all of this. My favourite #longdistancedatenight is Jacob reading to me. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful books together, and the latest has been Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. From the Witches collection of #Discworld, it revolves around wedding plans as King Verence prepares to make Magrat Garlick his wife. Magrat isn’t at all prepared for the responsibilities of being queen, however … and then there’s the issue of the crop circles, which Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax worry herald the arrival of “circle time”, a convergence of parallel universes which mean the Disc is susceptible for invasion by Elves from a parasite reality.
Like all Discworld books, this is incredibly funny, with some clever takes on tropes found in both contemporary society and fantasy worlds. I particularly loved Dwarfish lothario Casanunda, and Magrat’s desire to channel the “memory” of Queen Ynci and become a warrior queen to take on the enemy elves (blissfully unaware that Ynci is a fiction and the armour she dons was made of old cookware). More than that, though, I loved getting to share this story with my best friend, to curl up in bed and to enjoy his fantastic narration. There’s something incredibly special about hearing a story read aloud by someone with respect for the power of words, and #JacobReads beautifully. I’m very much looking forward to our next book, as we move onto Guards! Guards!, the first City Watch book.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 103/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara