Star Crossed by Minnie Darke

book-bitePublished: 5th Mark 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Michael Joseph
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help. When childhood sweethearts Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) bump into each other as adults, a life-changing love affair seems inevitable. To Justine, anyway. Especially when she learns Nick is an astrological devotee, whose decisions are guided by the stars, and more specifically, by the horoscopes in his favorite magazine. The same magazine Justine happens to write for.

As Nick continues to not fall headlong in love with her, Justine decides to take Nick’s horoscope, and Fate itself, into her own hands. But, of course, Nick is not the only Aquarius making important life choices according to what is written in the stars.

Charting the ripple effects of Justine’s astrological meddling, STAR-CROSSED is a delicious, intelligent, and affecting love story about friendship, chance, and how we all navigate the kinds of choices that are hard to face alone.

Why rely on fate when you can rewrite the stars?

When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her old friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by change. Or perhaps it’s written in the stars.

Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star – and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine’s astrology column to guide him in life.

Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to ‘Aquarius’ before it goes to print.

It’s only a horoscope, after all. What harm could changing it do?

Having read the blurb for this when it came out, I was really intrigued because it sounded fun and light-hearted. Unfortunately when it came to actually reading it, I couldn’t engage with the story and found myself skimming quite a lot. The story shows how changing something as innocent as the horoscopes can affect others, but it is long, clunky, drawn out and often uninteresting. The premise sounded great but the actual writing is what turns you off. I think it would have benefited from being shorter, to keep it a more succinct series of events. I understand you need to have it take place over a long time to get the benefit of multiple horoscopes but this could have been done without so much extra detail.

To Darke’s credit, I initially enjoyed the interweaving moments of other people’s lives to see how it wasn’t just Nick’s life Justine was affecting, but they had no connection to the story that I saw and I skipped those after a while to try and get through the story faster. Eventually I skimmed the last half to get the gist of the story and see how it concluded, but I had no connection to the characters or had any interest in whether they got together or not so sitting through page after page of the drama and lead up to that wasn’t worth the time.

You can purchase Star Crossed via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Fishpond

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Faking It (#2) by Gabrielle Tozer

Published: 23rd January 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Things are looking up for Josie Browning. Her boyfriend, James, is crazy about her, and she’s scored a writing job at indi. Now the pressure is on for Josie to prove she’s got what it takes to help plan indi’s launch. Plus, she’s battling with flatmates, frenemies and confusing feelings for travel writer Alex.

High on the perks at indi, Josie’s doing a pretty good job of faking her way in the industry – even though she still hasn’t mastered her hair straightener. But when Josie is invited to a media junket, she accidentally sets off a string of lies that threaten to ruin her reputation, love life and career forever.

Second book, second chance to warm up to main character Josie but once again it did not happen. I liked her even less this time around. I didn’t like her character and I can’t understand how she changed from one book to the other. There doesn’t seem to be a huge shift but the small moments of poor behaviour in the first book seem to be her dominate trait this time around. After fighting for James her eyes start to wander, after landing her dream job she sabotages her chances, what annoyed me most is she becomes the kind of person who would out a piece of clothing just because some guy made a joke about them.

I understand that she is thrust into a new role and she tries to be something and someone she isn’t, which is an uncomfortable experience but she is meant to be smarter and have more common sense than this, it’s built up in her backstory and by her previous experiences unless she has learnt nothing from the events before. Like last time I had to remind myself of her age constantly, she is only 18, but the drama and troubles around her were so petty telling myself it was a flights and fancy of a naïve, immature 18 year old was a stretch given everything she has experienced.

I tried so hard to love this book. I connected more with the first book than I did this and the fact I can’t even bring myself to give it three stars says a lot. I wanted to put this down so many times and I did but I always picked it up again. I couldn’t take Josie and everything in this book and so I’d take a break and try and come back but another paragraph and I’d have to stop. I was frustrated and annoyed and I wasn’t invested enough to care about anything happening. The fact I finished it even with the strong desire to quit at every turn was only to see the story through despite having no real interest in the outcome.

You can purchase Faking It via the following

Dymocks | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Intern (#1) by Gabrielle Tozer

Published: 1st February 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins AU
Pages: 327
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Josie Browning dreams of having it all.

A stellar academic record, an amazing career in journalism – and for her current crush to realise she actually exists. The only problem? Josie can’t get through twenty-four hours without embarrassing her sister Kat or her best friend Angel, let alone herself.

Josie’s luck changes though when she lands an internship at the glossy fashion magazine Sash. A coveted columnist job is up for grabs, but Josie’s got some tough competition in the form of two other interns. Battle lines are drawn and Josie quickly learns that the magazine industry is far from easy, especially under the reign of powerful editor, Rae Swanson.

From the lows of coffee-fetching and working 10-hour days, to the highs of mingling with celebrities, scoring endless free beauty products (plus falling for her cousin’s seriously gorgeous flatmate James) this is one year Josie will never forget.

Totally fresh and funny, this debut novel from industry insider Gabrielle Tozer reveals just what is behind the seeming glamour and sparkle of the magazine industry.

This is a light, fun story that is good but doesn’t really have a lot of substance. It was new for me to have a YA where the character was solely at a job and not in high school, Josie is at university for some parts but even that is something different.

I have mixed feelings about this story, I enjoyed it but things were annoying as well. Perfect coincidences, unrealistic situations, and I couldn’t connect with the main character. I never felt that fond of Josie, she was nice, but I never clicked with her. I really had to remind myself that she was only 17 because it made me not excuse, but understand her behaviour a little better. Her impulsiveness, her complaints, even her behaviour didn’t fit in with the good student she was meant to be and it was jarring to see contrasts in her portrayal.

I can see how Josie is meant to be a reflection on real life; good grades, great opportunity but the strange and daft moments of being human and human behaviour can still get in the way. Josie’s flaws are there to have her be flawed but they were annoying after a while.

All the characters have stories and complexities, whether they all get explored in detail is another thing. There were stereotypical characters and different personality types but even if there was a reason for their actions the characters weren’t given enough depth for me to understand who these people were and why they do what they do.

Tozer captures the chaos of working for a magazine and the behind the scenes of what goes on for photoshoots and getting articles out. Josie is thrown into this world with her internship and after a rocky start starts having opportunities conveniently thrown at her which is a win for her but is slightly unbelievable for the reader.

I wanted to enjoy this more, and I think I did reading it, but reviewing it has made me think more about the problems I saw. While there are entertaining moments and funny parts, you have to suspend some parts of believability to really enjoy the story. Overall it was a nice story that has a bit of drama, romance, and humour but nothing too serious either.

You can purchase The Intern via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery 

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Growing Up Queer in Australia edited by Benjamin Law

Published: 6th August 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Black Inc
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Compiled by celebrated author and journalist Benjamin Law, Growing Up Queer in Australia assembles voices from across the spectrum of LGBTIQA+ identity. Spanning diverse places, eras, genders, ethnicities and experiences, these are the stories of growing up queer in Australia.

For better or worse, sooner or later, life conspires to reveal you to yourself, and this is growing up.

With contributions from David Marr, Fiona Wright, Nayuka Gorrie, Steve Dow, Holly Throsby, Sally Rugg, Tony Ayres, Nic Holas, Rebecca Shaw, Kerryn Phelps and many more.

Growing Up Queer is filled with voices of all aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community with stories about gay relationships, being intersex, having first loves, lost loves, and those who were important to the lives of all these authors, demonstrating the crucial roles some of them had to play in them finding who they are. The introduction is a good place to start because it includes the content warnings and apologies if the content upsets anyone. The stories are filled with discrimination, family rejection, suicide mention and violence. It is important to warn readers but these are crucial moments because these are stories about growing up queer in Australia, these are real stories and real experiences and knowing that these are hardships that these authors have had to deal with is part of the understanding.

There are stories that show the complex relationships with parents around cultural boundaries, about religion, as well as the struggles and the wins about coming out to family and friends. It isn’t only recent coming out stories either, many previous decades are covered from the 70s to the 90s and 2000s. There is even a story from the 50s that covers hiding your true self until an older age. I wasn’t keeping a real record about when each story was set, nor do all the stories really identify when they take place, but it felt like there were a lot more from the last thirty years than earlier. Not that the last thirty years isn’t a large amount of time for society to change it’s opinions, but I would have loved to hear more stories about the earlier years a well.

There were a lot of stories connected to the marriage equality survey and how the results affected people and their families. Some stories were wonderful, while others were a little heartbreaking. The authors talk about the impact it had on their relationships, their feeling of inclusion, not to mention their anger that it was being debated at all and how it changed how they saw some of their friends and family. Obviously this was a huge change to people’s lives and it was interesting to see their opinions and perspectives.

The “growing up” aspect of the title I was expecting their childhood or young adult experience, and many stories explore that time with recollections from moments in time that were important or crucial to them understanding or embracing . But there were also stories of being older, in their twenties, or an older adult. One author wrote that the growing up part of their queer life was when they were more comfortable in their queerness, not necessarily when they were young which I thought was an interesting approach.

I found myself writing down some brilliant insights and quotes that I think encapsulate what it means to be queer, what society thinks they should be and say, and how those critical and offensive towards them feel they are privileged to say and do. These essays are written by people who are masters with words and I found it helps explain just how different their experiences are from other people and how they are also not the alien figures people think they are. These are just some of my favourites:

“Try as they might, our subversive bodies will always tell us the truth…What censorship is really designed to achieve is the sort of silence that turns what our bodies tell us into shame. This calls for more than censorship of books and films. It also needs the censorship of learning.” – David Marr

“If you can’t be yourself in your own way then god help you when you die with a wallet full of fake IDs.” – Tim Sinclair

“All identities, queer or not, are fictional stories. The important of queer storytellers is not in how they prove their truth, but in how they prove it is necessary to tell our stories in a way that makes us comfortable.” – Oliver Reeson

The anthology is made of essays, but some were more essay like, some were memoirs that told of a certain moment, and some felt like wonderful fictional stories they were so beautifully told. I found myself getting quite caught up in some of these tales, drawn in by their way with words and their fascinating lives about being part of the LGBTQIA+ community and the experiences they had had. While there were stories of trauma and trouble, there isn’t a huge focus on it. Many contributors wrote about how amazing it is nowadays that sexuality is spoken about more openly than ever before, but it’s acknowledged that fear is still there.

I was expecting more stories that talked about the struggles of discrimination, especially in the earlier decades about fighting to decriminalise homosexuality or other discrimination. I completely understand though that hiding who you were was the best defence you could ever have and embracing your queerness by celebrating the good moments is better than focusing on the bad. Initially I thought these types of stories needed to be included because the history is important and acknowledging the past is important even if it hurts. But it is also important to tell stories of happiness and hope, and there are mentions of the violence some people experienced, it isn’t focused on a lot but it isn’t omitted either.

This is a wonderful collection that could help people understand who they are, and it is a wonderful way to understand he lives of others, the struggles they have faced and makes you realise that as wonderful as things have become, there is still a way to go.

You can purchase Growing Up Queer via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Published: 1st October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don’t just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.

This doesn’t feel like a mystery per se, there is a mystery, two mysteries, but a lot of the surrounding story covers the nature of the small town and the day to day lives of those in it. There are moments where there’re clues and accusations, and you do wonder what happened to the missing people, are they connected, is it innocent or is it foul play? Throsby does a good job having a mystery woven into the day to day lives of this small town community. She manages to depict small town life in a way that feels like a welcoming place, but is also one where everybody knows everyone’s business and there are secrets hidden for a good reason.

This is a slow story that draws you into the characters and the town, establishing the scenes and the players while the mystery happens around it. There are a lot of names and connections to keep track of but while it feels busy, it does give a sense of how involved in everybody’s lives the town is and how everybody is known to one another. The characters help create the setting as much as the descriptions of the surroundings do.

Throsby has spread out the timeline and the mystery is satisfactory without feeling obvious. There are surprises and clues throughout and what seems innocent could become more crucial later on. I enjoyed how Throsby makes the missing people first and foremost, while also making the reader wait and find out what happens. Town life carries on afterwards and it brings a sense of reality to the story. Certain people will be affect more than others, the businesses must keep running, lives go on, even if deep down everyone has been affected in some way by what has happened.

The 90s setting was fun. It isn’t obvious or over the top but it is there enough to know when the events are happening with casual references to Nirvana, overalls and other minor references giving a 90s feel to the story naturally. Overall it was an enjoyable read and one where the few surprises and revelations add to the small town dynamics where things are not always as it seems.

You can purchase Goodwood via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksFishpond  Amazon | Amazon Aust

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