What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillame

Published: 26th February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pan Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

You know all those movies where teenagers have, like, THE SUMMER OF THEIR LIVES?

This summer is probably not going to be that.

Source: Everything that’s happened since yesterday…

The last thing sixteen-year-old Maisie Martin thought she’d be doing this summer is entering a beauty pageant.  Not when she’s spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone. Not when her Dad is AWOL for Christmas and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie’s shaky confidence. And her best friend starts going out with the boy she’s always loved.

But Maisie’s got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this summer is going from bad to worse in her school-assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture-device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn’t let anything, or anyone, hold her back.

There has only been a handful of times that I’ve known I was giving a book five stars before I had even finished it and this is one of those times. I think I had decided in the first chapter that I loved this book. I love this book because it is simple, full of heart, full of growing up and friendships, not to mention that is felt real from page one through to the very end.

This story is the epitome of teen behaviour, teen angst, teen impulse and teen support. Guillaume has captured the voice so well that you felt like these characters were real life teenagers living their lives in front of you. Doing that and doing that well creates a story that is believable and has a powerful impact on how you interpret a story. When you have a good voice you’re able to be caught up in the events rather than cringing constantly by bad dialogue and Guillaume has excelled.

The family dynamics explored were wonderful in that they were complicated and not perfect. There is no perfect sister relationship and the fact that Maisie often feels like a side character in her own family was really interesting. I loved how the parent relationship is shown too; through a kid’s eyes there is always going to be a limited perspective and coupled with Guillaume’s choice of formatting it allows for a lot more personal interpretation and unease.  

The diary format allows Guillaume to mess with form and fill in details in a creative way and use a casual voice and casual language. It is also a great way to capture Maisie’s voice as she is the one telling the story. This means the events described are already edited by herself and with her own bias and naivety included which adds drama and tension. 

The romance element was absolutely adorable and I did guess it but only just in time and it was even better because it confirmed what I wanted to happen which honestly is the best result to get. It is incredibly sweet but there is another focus on friendship and traditions with friends too which was fantastic. The strange relationships you have with friends you see once a year but have been doing so for most of your life.

One of the reasons why I loved this book from start to finish was that it felt real, it always felt real and believable. It doesn’t try to live up to the United States kind of summer which goes for three months and the goal is always to have “the perfect summer experience”. This is a week over Christmas and New Year and it is exactly what I know and can relate to, going to a small coastal town for a holiday and seeing the same people you always see on that holiday but with a chance of meeting new people along the way.

It is fun, a delight to read, but it is filled with heart too that can hit your emotions all over the place. A favourite book from the first few pages and it stayed that way right until the end. 

You can purchase What I Like About Me via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

AWW Update

This update includes all the AWW books I have read so far this year. Ideally I would have broken this up into three posts but so I don’t create too many out of place posts I’ve added them into one. There will still be the last update and final wrap up in December though. Looking at the list I have once again come out of the gate with a bang, then the April-June slump is to be expected but not a bad effort there, and as we head back on track with July-September it is a tad directionless but still some good titles in there. I am hoping I can actively direct my reading back to Aussie women, the last few months have only caught AWW titles around the edges, I’m aiming for some intentional reading for the final quarter.

Reviews obviously are behind but I have a lot of these coming up over the next few weeks so hopefully that will boost my review numbers significantly.

January-March

Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

Growing Up Queer in Australia ed Benjamin Lee – Review

Summer Time by Hilary Bell

Goodwood by Holly Throsby – Review

A Day at the Show by Gwyn Perkins – Review

Just the Way We Are by Jessica Shirvington – Review

Shout out to the Girls Review

Meerkat Choir by Nicki Greenberg – Review

Celeste the Giraffe Loved to Laugh by Celeste Barber – Review

Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

The Mistake by Wendy James

Meet Me at the Intersection ed Rebecca Lim

Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

Clancy the Quokka by Lilli Wilkinson – Review

Star Crossed by Minnie Darke – Review

A Trip to the Beach by Gwyn Perkins

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Faking It (#2) by Gabrielle Tozer – Review

April-June

The Ex by Nicola Moriarty

Those Other Women Nicola Moriarty

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

The Anzac Bilby by Claire Saxby

The Easter Bunnyroo by Susannah Chambers

Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble for the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson – Review

July-September

Queer Stories ed. Maeve Marsden

Ella and the Ocean by Lian Tanner

My Friend Fred by Frances Watts

Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian by Dorothy Wall

Blinky Bill Grows Up by Dorothy Wall

Blinky Bill and Nutsy by Dorothy Wall

AWW20 TOTAL

Read: 35/40

Reviewed: 11/35

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

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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