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

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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

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A Day at the Show by Gwyn Perkins

 

Published: 31st July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Affirm Press
Illustrator: Gwyn Perkins
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Doreen the hen has laid another perfect egg! Little Iggy and Grandad think she deserves to win a prize.

What follows is a family trip to the colourful chaos of the Show, filled with spinning tea cups, merry-g-rounds, lots of animals and some healthy competition.

Here is a story about family adventures, the magic of the show, and the joy of running one tiny car into another.

From Perkins’ first book A Walk in the Bush I’ve slowly grown quite attached to these stories. I love Grandad and Iggy and I love the little conversations he has with the cat and how he helps him have adventures and appreciate the world around him.

This time round Iggy and Grandad go to the show because of how proud Grandad is of Doreen and her egg laying ability. He wants to show off her skills and while they’re there have a great day at the show.

The simple conversations are quite profound and somehow Perkin’s makes a regular thing like going to the show seem even more fabulous and adventurous. The illustrations are bright and colourful and a little more cartoony considering many livestock are riding the merry-go-round and buying show bags. But the enthusiasm from grandad and Iggy’s silence is adorable and endearing and I love their little adventures.

I love how the animals are not only being judged but also are the ones enjoying the show. Grandad and Iggy explore everything that makes these shows fun – the woodchop, the show bags, the animal judging. It reminds me of the many times I’ve been to the Royal Easter Show and it’s something many people can relate to even if it is only a local fete or carnival.

I look forward to the many other adventures I hope this pair will have. It is a great exploration of Australian culture and yet is timeless and could be anywhere at all. It’s a simple story but it is filled with heart too.

You can purchase A Day at the Show via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

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Just the Way We Are by Jessica Shirvington

Published: 22nd June 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Claire Robertson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A celebration of families of every kind!

Meet Anna, Chiara, Henry, Izzy and Jack.

Their families might not look like your family, but that’s okay … they’re perfect, just the way they are!

Just the Way We Are is a wonderful book that demonstrates that every family is different and many different types of family exists. There’s diversity between the families and between the cultures and generations presented which was great to see. There’s representation for same sex parents, single parent families, divorced households, fostered and adopted families, and grandparents living in the same house kind of families.

Robertson backs this up with wonderfully diverse illustrations filled with colour. They are cartoonish but not over the top or comical, and help celebrate this cultural diversity ever further with her creations and helps celebrate what makes each family special.

The narration alternates between each child of the five separate families, telling readers about the activities they do with their family and a simple but clear explanation about the type of family they are a part of. The message repeated throughout is that each family is perfect just the way they are and each one is celebrated with happy moments and positive attitudes. The formatting is clear, each child is given a different coloured font for their story, and over a few pages tells the reader why their family is perfect just the way it is.

Shirvington has created a great story that helps celebrate the uniqueness of families, not only in their make up, but in the activities each family does together as well. I really loved this story because it is perfect to show that different families exist outside the reader’s own and each family is unique in their own special way.

You can purchase Just the Way We Are via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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