January 12 2021

Emmie and Friends series, by Terri Libenson

Emmie and friends

Emmie and friends, by Terri Libenson

Title: Emmie and Friends series
Author: Terri Libenson
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Friendship. Identity. Mental Health.

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.

This is a lovely middle grade series that looks at a range of friendship issues faced by a group of friends and peers in a middle school. All 4 books have a lovely part illustrated text, part comic panel presentation, with a sweet and engaging illustration style and a lovely colour palette. The characters are all flawed and interesting, and face a range of authentic problems that would be recognisable by most 8-12 year old readers navigating their own friendship problems. I love that these books model the process of seeing things from another person’s perspective, and encourage a sense of empathy. I also appreciated the practical methods to dealing with conflict that are modelled by characters on all sides of the issues. Each novel in the series deals with the problems of a different protagonist, and they could be read individually but are interconnected. Each novel also has its own interesting “twist” at the end – I’m not gonna lie, one of them completely threw me, even though I was on the lookout for something to happen!
If you’ve got middle to upper primary children in your life, and you’d like them to read something sweet and engaging with some great lessons to learn about how to be a good friend and to deal with conflict, this would be a great option.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 6-9/2021

Happy reading,




January 10 2021

The colour of magic, by Terry Pratchett

colour of magic

The colour of magic, by Terry Pratchett

Title: The colour of magic
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Friendship. Identity. Mental Health.

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 decided to do a Discworld reread this year. Jacob is reading me Lords and Ladies as our current bedtime read, but I’m mostly going to read in publication order (which is NOT how I’d recommend you start if you’re new to Discworld, FYI!)
The Colour of Magic is a delightful romp around the Discworld, and I had remembered enjoying it when I first read it 20-something years ago, but was quite surprised to discover just how little I’d remembered of it. The luggage! Pratchett’s writing is masterful, with a witty control of language that simultaneously creates a unique and fascinating new world whilst cleverly critiquing aspects of our own world that we frequently take for granted. 10/10 would recommend – but if you’ve not read Discworld before, maybe start with Mort instead. You can thank me later

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 5/2021

Happy reading,




January 9 2021

Loveless, by Alice Oseman


Loveless, by Alice Oseman

Title: Loveless
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: YA. Sexuality. Relationships. Ace/Aro representation. Queer identities.

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 only recently discovered the work of the wonderful @aliceoseman and it’s fair to say that I am obsessed. Loveless is a book about love, where people find it, and how it can exist outside society’s expectations. As one of the characters says – “The heteronormative rulebook? Fuck that.”
Georgia is obsessed with fanfic romances, and is sure she’ll find her person one day – despite the fact that she’s never kissed anyone, never had a crush, and certainly never been in love. As she starts uni, she starts trying to search for romance or stir up some attraction, and this causes problems both in her friendship group, and in herself, as she struggles to figure out what her feelings mean. Asexual, aromantic – she had heard of these terms, but what do they mean for her?
Oseman’s Heartstopper was one of my favourite graphic novels of last year, in no small part because of the gentle, witty, authentic and wonderful portrayal of the central characters. Loveless is the same, and whilst I know this is primarily Georgia’s story, the struggles of her roommate Rooney to find herself and allow herself to be seen resonated so deeply with me that it hurt to read sometimes. “I just … I hate the idea of people knowing me because … surely then they’ll hate me the same way I hate myself.” Same, Rooney, same.
This is a wonderful book, and I’m extremely glad that Past Tamara planned ahead and made sure that Future Tamara had another Oseman book to crack into once she’d finished it.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 4/2021

Happy reading,




January 7 2021

The Banks, by Roxanne Gay

The Banks

The Banks, by Roxanne Gay and Ming Doyle

Title: The Banks
Author: Roxanne Gay
Illustrator: Ming Doyle
Genre/ issues: Comic. Crime fiction. Queer rep. Family legacy.

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 Banks, by Roxanne Gay, Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire. This was a great read, beautifully illustrated in rich and vibrant tones. The Banks family have been the most successful family of thieves in Chicago for 50 years, and whilst the father/ grandfather may have done a few stints in prison, the women in the family have stayed clean by living by their golden rules: get in, get away, get paid, and never get greedy. The youngest Banks woman became arguably the biggest crook, however – an investment banker in line for a lucrative partnership at her firm. She stumbles across the opportunity for the heist of a lifetime, which may be just enough to bring the family back together again – for both an incredible score, and a chance at revenge.
If you liked Ocean’s 8 for its female-led heist narrative, then you’ll love this. The Banks family are strong and fabulous black women, and there’s a wonderful queer relationship thrown in for good measure. A fast-paced short -run comic series in a genre that isn’t one that I usually reach for, but Roxanne Gay’s name on the cover was enough to make me pick it up. I’m so glad I did!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 3/2021

Happy reading,




January 5 2021

A darker shade of magic, by VE Schwab

Darker shade of magic

A darker shade of magic, by WE Schwab

Title: A darker shade of magic
Author: VE Schwab
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Magic. Alternate worlds.

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 read my first book by VE Schwab last year – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was one of my top 5 books of 2020, and is a beautifully written wonder of an urban fantasy that captured my heart. I went into A Darker Shade of Magic cautiously optimistic, because it’s had such good reviews, and wow- it did not disappoint.
Kell is a traveller – a magician with the rare ability to travel between the parallel universes linked by the common geography of London. But whilst the city itself is the same in each of the worlds, there is nothing else familiar, and Red, Grey and White London are all living under different reigns with wildly varying relationships with magic, freedom and power. And then there’s Lila – a pickpocket trying to forge a better life for herself in Grey London, where magic doesn’t exist. But fate – and a special rock – bring Lila and Kell together.
This book is fantastic. Sharp and elegantly written prose, with a unique take on magic that I can’t wait to learn more about. And luckily, it’s book 1 in a series, so guess who has two thumbs and just ordered the rest of it? I’m usually frustrated by the ending of books that are obviously the first in a series, but I have to say I found this one immensely satisfying – I definitely want to know what happens next, and to hopefully catch a glimpse of Black London, mentioned in this book in hushed tones as being sealed off from all the others after magic got out of control – which immediately makes me want to visit, from the safety of the other side of the page, of course!
Content warnings: abuse, torture, control and compulsion/ loss of bodily autonomy.
My second book for the year, and my second 5 star read.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 2/2021

Happy reading,




January 4 2021

Marvel 1602, by Neil Gaiman

Marvel 1602

Title: Marvel 1602
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Andy Kubert
Illustrator: Richard Isanove
Genre/ issues: Fantasy/ sci-fi. Comics. 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.

My first read of the year, and it’s a doozy. Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman takes the characters we are familiar with from the Marvel Universe, and transposes them into early 17th century Europe. With clever adaptations of character names (pre-spidey Peter Parquagh is servant to the Queen’s intelligencer Sir Nicholas Fury) and subtle but unmistakable costuming that reflects our modern era expectations but contextualises them to the time and place of the comic, this is the Marvel we know, but also something completely different. Whilst the time period means that the United States of America is not yet on the map, Roanoke features as a looming concern, and despite the action being almost completely set in England and Europe, this still manages to be a text which speaks heavily to the concerns of the US, both when the comic was released, and sadly still today. Equality. Discrimination. Fear. Hatred of the other. Power and privilege.
And the artwork. Holy shit, folks, this is next level stunning. With illustrations by Andy Kubert and digital painting by Richard Isanove, every page – no, every frame is like an oil painting. The colour, texture and detail had me feeling like I was browsing a gallery of art from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.
A great first book for the year. Now to decide where to shelve it – both my comic and my Gaiman shelves are packed to overflowing!

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 1/2021

Happy reading,


January 4 2021

#2020ReadingChallenge wrap up

2020 books readBuckle in, readers, this is going to be a long one!

I started 2020 with the ambitious goal of reading 52 books throughout the year. but ended up more than doubling that. I read some incredible books – in fact, there’s almost nothing on here that I wouldn’t recommend to someone. There were indeed some stand-outs, and I’ve compiled my top 5 books in a few different categories, as well as a top 5 and top 20 books overall – because it was hard to narrow it down! I’ve really enjoyed challenging myself to read new things this year – I read more non-fiction than I normally do, I got back into reading comics again, and most of my books were written by own voices and/or BIPOC authors, and feature diverse and authentic representation of characters and experiences.

My stats:
📚 Total books read: 111
📚 New-to-me authors: 68
📚 Books featuring significant diverse content/ characters: 84
📚 Books by diverse authors: 73
📚 Rereads: 7
📚 Non-fiction: 11
📚 Comics/ graphics: 36
📚 Picture books: 13
📚 Audiobooks: 16
📚 Main genres: Contemporary (46), Fantasy (31), Sci-fi (27)
📚 Most recommended books: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
📚 Most purchased book: Euphoria Kids.

I focused a lot this year on #diversifyingmybookshelf – consciously reading books by authors of colour, and featuring BIPOC characters that were authentically represented. I’ve always read queer literature pretty extensively, and one of my increasing focuses as the year went on was the representation of mental health and disability in my reading, particularly in YA books. I’ve enjoyed some of these #ownvoices reads most of all, and will be seeking out more fiction that presents these types of issues and characters in authentic and meaningful ways.

2020 was a good reading year for me, and I was surprised to see that I’d read more contemporary than anything else – I think of myself as a sci-fi/fantasy girl! I’m using TheStorygraph to track my #2021readingchallenge, so I’m interested to see how those stats come out at the end of this year – the above info is taken from my highly unscientific excel spreadsheet dump, after I realised that GoodReads wasn’t going to give me the goods.

Top 5 books

Top Books Overall

I’ve been debating how to present my top 10 list of reads from 2020, and figured out that whilst I can do a top 5 easily, narrowing the next 5 down was considerably more difficult. So, here are my top 5 reads of last year, along with a top 20.

Every single book in my top 5 I will read again, and have recommended to multiple people. I’ve also purchased multiple copies of them to give as gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and “just because” gifts throughout the year.

In no particular order:

  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria “V.E.” Schwab
  • Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
top 20 booksThe rest of my top 20 are all excellent reads, and all for different reasons. Some made me laugh. Some made me cry. They all made me think, and feel a whole lot of feelz. They all made me proud to be a reader, and inspired me more to strive to be a writer. At least half of them could have made it into my top 5 if one of the aforementioned authors had done a less-than-perfect job on their books. So here are 6-20 on my top 20, in no particular order:
  • How it feels to float, by Helena Fox
  • Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann
  • The Strangeworlds travel agency by LD Lapinski
  • Children of blood and bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Long way down by Jason Reynolds
  • The poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Anxious people by Fredrik Backman
  • Future Girl by Asphyxia
  • They both die at the end by Adam Silvera
  • Snow, glass, apples, by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
  • Wonder Woman rebirth by Greg Rucka
  • Catch and kill by Ronan Farrow
  • Black enough: stories of being young and black in America, Ed by Ibi Zoboi
  • Peta Lyre’s rating normal by Anna Whateley

top 5 ya

Top 5 YA reads

I read a lot of YA – most than half the books in my 111 total for the year were young adult, and all of them great, so this was hard to narrow down. I didn’t include Euphoria Kids, which was on my top5 best books overall list, and that gave me room for one more on here, which I desperately needed.
I didn’t realise until taking this photo that this collection has a nice spread of issues and characters – queer, neurodivergence, race, mental health, disability – and it probably more fully captures my reading interests than any of my other top5 lists!
In no particular order (well ok – in the order they appear in the photo, but not in any order to assign preference, because they all freaking rock and you should read them all if you haven’t yet):
  •  How it feels to float by Helena Fox
  •  Future girl by Asphyxia
  •  Peta Lyre’s rating normal by Anna Whateley
  •  Children of blood and bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  •  Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
 Reiterating here – read these books. I will say, though, some/ most of them deal with some heavy content at some point. Trigger warnings particularly for mental health issues in HIFTF and PLRN, suicidal ideation in HIFTF, some extreme violence/torture/ racial discrimination in COBAB, dystopian issues around food insecurity in FG, family abandonment in PLRN. I’m not telling you this to discourage you – I just really believe you need to know what you’re getting into sometimes, and if these issues might be particularly triggering for you right now, wait until you’re feeling more able to cope with their fictional representation before you pick up these books. But please, pick them up. Outstanding novels, all.

top 5 poetry

Top 5 Poetry reads

My top 5 poetry reads for 2020 are all verse novels. I love the verse novel form, and I read quite a few last year. My faves, in no particular order, are:
  •  Worse things by @sallymurphyauthor
  •  Long way down by @jasonreynolds83
  •  The poet X by @acevedowrites
  •  Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann
  •  The crossover by @kwamealexander
A couple of these could also have made their way onto some of my other Top 5 lists – Worse Things is an excellent middle grade/ lower secondary novel, and The Poet X is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year. They’re all excellent reads. If you have slightly reluctant readers, or those who struggle to find the time to read a full-length traditional novel, I highly recommend the verse novel format as a way to help bridge that gap for them.
One of the features I love about verse novels is how the form seems to allow us to connect with characters on a deep emotional level, and after reading a few of these earlier in the year I started dabbling in writing in verse for my NaNoWriMo project. I’m really loving it, both as a reader and a writer. If you’ve not read a verse novel before, any of these would be great places to start.

top 5 picture books

Top 5 picture books

My top 5 picture books are all very different. Ranging from sweet easy read-along books suitable for younger children, to something to inspire deeper thought for middle grade readers, to deep and complex examination of capitalism, exploitation of workers, and human rights.
My top 5, in no particular order, are:
  •  How to make a bird, by @megmckinlay and @mattottleyart
  •  Migrants, by Issa Watanabe
  •  Julian at the wedding, by @jesslovedraws
  •  Diamonds, by Armin Greder
  •  Alphabetical Tashi by Anna and Barbara Fienberg
I love picture books. I believe that they offer incredible opportunities to engage with stories for readers of all ages and skill levels. And yet, when it came to including them on my #2020readingchallenge list, I still kind of felt a bit like I was cheating. They don’t take nearly as long as a full-sized prose novel. Could I really justify including a book with no words on a reading list? Turns out, yes. Yes I can. Because the length of time a book takes to consume doesn’t influence its impact. What matters is that you find a world to immerse yourself in that engages you, that entertains, inspires, challenges or comforts you while you read it, and hopefully beyond that. All of these books did that for me, from the nostalgia of Tashi to the inspiration of How to make a bird to the challenge of Diamonds. If you want to read more, but don’t feel like you have time, head into your library and ask them to point you to their collection of picture books for older readers. They aren’t just for little kids until they’re ready to move onto “real” reading. What was your favourite picture book of 2020?

top 5 comics

Top 5 Comic/ Graphic reads

2020 was the year of rediscovering my love of comics. I used to read them a bit when I was a kid, but stopped when I was around 12 – I don’t remember why. For the past few years I’ve wanted to get back into reading them, but there always seemed to be such a big barrier to entry and I didn’t know where to start. After a discussion with Jacob, though, I did a bit of research, asked some comic nerd friends for advice, and bit the bullet. I’ve read 36 comics and graphic novels this year, and I’ve loved the diversity of the worlds and characters I’ve discovered. One of Jacob’s friends recommended “anything by Greg Rucka”, and that has proven to be useful advice indeed. My top 5 comic/ graphic reads for 2020 are:

  •  Ms Marvel, vol1
  •  Wonder Woman Rebirth, vol1, by @ruckawriter et al
  •  The old guard, another Rucka masterpiece.
  •  Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman
  •  Lumberjanes, by @gingerhazing et al
If you don’t read comics but would like to, here are my tried and true tips for getting started!
Pick a character from pop culture you like and do some googling. Comic fans somewhere will have debated the best entry point to get into their story!
Have you loved a tv show that’s based on a comic or graphic? Get that! You already know you’ll enjoy the story and characters, no matter how weirdly different they may be in comic form (I’m looking at you, Umbrella Academy).
There are plenty of graphic novels adapted from traditional novels – check to see if there are any made of books you like.
If you find the prospect of a whole comic series daunting, try a shorter arc. I’m currently reading Marvel 1602 and I think it’s be a great comic entry point for MCU fans who want to start reading comics (plus, it’s written by @neilhimself!)
And finally, do some research to find your most helpful local comic store. I’ve loved the service at @kingscomics, and they’ve really helped me develop my comics collection this year. I tend to do most of my inquiries online, because whilst they all seem great in person, I still have some “middle aged woman in a comic store” hang ups when it comes to asking for advice in store. The staff are great, though, and know their stuff.

top 5 middle grade reads

Top 5 middle grade reads

One more top5 for today- my fave middle grade reads of my #2020readingchallenge. Some are solid middle grade books, others are transitional middle grade/ YA – all are excellent reads.
  • George, by @alexginoofficial
  • The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, by @ldlapinski
  • Ghost, by @jasonreynolds83
  • Bindi, by @kirli.saunders and @dubleffler
  • Hollowpox: the hunt for Morrigan Crow, by @digressica
There’s some diversity here. An illustrated verse novel about Indigenous family and community. A black kid finding his place on a track team. A trans girl dealing with coming out to her family and friends. And a couple of cracker middle grade/ YAish fantasy books with fantastic complex characters. I think Hollowpox is the pick of the Morrigan Crow series, for what it’s worth, and I have high hopes for what comes next in the Strangeworlds series. Younger readers can deal with deeper and more complex issues than we give them credit for, especially when those issues are presented with such beautiful, sensitive and thoughtful writing as it is by these authors.
Have you read any of these? What do you think?

top 5 non fiction

Top 5 Non-fiction reads

My top 5 non-fiction for 2020 is an eclectic bunch. I don’t tend to read a lot of non-fiction, so the fact that I had enough for a top 5 was a surprise to me – in fact, 10% of my #2020readingchallenge was non-fiction books.
The best of them for me were:
  •  Stamped from the beginning: a history of racist ideas in America, by @ibramxk (YA version pictured – I listened to the audiobook on Spotify)
  •  Dragon Hoops, by @geneluenyang
  •  Astronauts: Women on the final frontier, by @gtlabsrat and @mariswicks
  •  Living on stolen land, by Ambelin Kwaymullina
  •  Catch and Kill: lies, spies, and a conspiracy to protect predators, by @ronanfarrow
It’s an eclectic mix. A detailed historical examination of racist ideas in the US. A graphic novel memoir of the author’s life in parallel with his portrayal of the championship basketball team at his school. A graphic novel history of women’s involvement in the space program. A verse novel manifesto about the importance of acknowledging Indigenous custodianship of the land. And, finally, and expose on one of the key cases of the #metoo movement. I’ve enjoyed consciously reading a bit more non-fiction this year, and will be looking for more, particularly those in non-prose form. I’ve enjoyed the graphic novel format for non-fiction, and it allows for some deeper reflections on the nature of memory and recreating history on the page.
So, that’s my 2020 in books. At the time of posting this, I’m already about 8 books into my 2021 reading challenge – I’ve not set myself a number target this year, but I am hoping read a similar amount of diverse and interesting stories. I’m starting a reread of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which I’m really looking forward to, and I’m going to read more middle grade books – it’s an area that I don’t read widely from. I hope you read something great last year – if you didn’t that’s ok too. Start now! If you want any recommendations, hit me up – it’d be an honour to help you find your next favourite read.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 111/111

Happy reading,




December 31 2020

Wonder Woman: Rebirth, by Greg Rucka

Wonder Woman Rebirth

Wonder Woman: Rebirth, volume 1, by Greg Rucka

Title: Wonder Woman: Rebirth
Author: Greg Rucka
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi. Superheroes. Feminism. Identity.

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.

Comics by candlelight. When I set out on my quest to get back into reading comics after a 30 year break earlier this year, I knew Wonder Woman would be high on my list – but there are so many options, it was hard to know where to start. Thanks to some great advice from a friend of Jacob’s (“you can’t go wrong with Greg Rucka”) I picked up Wonder Woman Rebirth, and I finally read it today. Sigh. My heart is full of joy right now. I’ve loved Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember, and this collection includes 1-14 of the Wonder Woman rebirth series, providing the parallel narratives of her early days on Themiscyra along with her modern day quest to return home. The art is stunning, the stories are sublime, and the characters are outstanding. I hopped onto @kingscomics and ordered volume 2 and 3 this afternoon, and I can’t wait to read them.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 111/100

Happy reading,




December 30 2020

Illegal, by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin


Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin

Title: Illegal
Author: Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
Illustrator: Giovanni Rigano
Genre/ issues: Contemporary. Refugees.

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.

Illegal, by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano. Wow. What a beautiful book, telling such a heartbreaking and terrible story. Illegal tells the story of Ebo, who along with his brother attempts to find refuge and safety by making the perilous journey from his home in Northern Africa, across the Sahara and then across the ocean to Italy. Whilst fictional, Ebo’s story reflects the reality of countless numbers of people who are desperate for a better life for their family – not just a better home or an easier life, but the fundamentals of safety that so many of us take for granted. A powerful read, and a timely reminder that there’s nothing illegal about being human.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 110/100

Happy reading,




December 29 2020

Doom Patrol, by Grant Morrison

Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison

Title: Doom Patrol, volume 3
Author: Grant Morrison
Genre/ issues: Sci-fi.

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 read a lot of comics this year, and Doom Patrol certainly takes the top spot for weirdest. That’s not an insult, and I’m pretty sure what Morrison et.al. were going for! This is volume 3, which contains number 35-41 of the comic series. Part of me kept thinking that perhaps it’d make more sense if I’d read from the beginning, but I soon realised that no, I don’t think that would be the case at all. An alien war, a sentient trans street, a team member who suddenly undergoes their own transformation, and a whole bunch of attacks on normality that were warping my brain a bit. The art is surreal, and the dialogue sharply and wittily funny. It’s a hell of a read, and one that has taken my 2020-addled brain months to get through!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 109/100

Happy reading,