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

When the Library Lights Go Out by Megan McDonald

Published: 1st October 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Illustrator: Katherine Tillotson
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★  – 2 Stars

CLOSED may mean “closed” to you. But for three story-hour puppets, CLOSED means “open for adventure.”

At first there are only Rabbit and Lion. Hermit Crab is missing. Where can she be in the library darkness? 

Find out for yourself when – magically – only puppets are up and about.

From the cover it had the promise of a cute little adventure in the library after hours and while there is a semblance of adventure, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. First of all, it’s a long book. Not overly wordy on each page but it is a long story. This is perpetuated by the fact that it’s a while before anything happens.

I found I couldn’t engage with the story of Rabbit and Lion looking for their friend. It was either meant to be adventurous or have the emotional pull of finding a lost friend which I could see on the surface but nothing deeper. The ending obviously is meant to be heartfelt and maybe even magical in its own way but I didn’t care that much.

What the story lacks is made up for in the illustrations. They are well done and I got the feeling of the library and the toys’ place within it, and I liked the depiction of the toys, their scruffy style makes them look like the much loved scruffy toys they are meant to be. Tillotson has made a great visual representation of the story with lots of strong colours, dark shadows and wonderful techniques to capture the night environment.

It was sweet at the end but overall uneventful. I think this could have been a better story if it was a bit different but the current story failed to capture my attention.

You can purchase When the Library Lights Go Out via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Lashings of Sauce edited by UK Meet Acquisitions Team

Published: 1st July 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
JMS Books LLC
Pages: 270
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology
★   ★ – 2 Stars

We Brits love our sauce, whether it’s what we lash on our food, read on our seaside postcards, or write in our stories. Come and enjoy a buffet of tasty LGBTQ treats!

From marriages to reunions, via practical jokes and football matches, to weresloths and possibly the oddest Tarts and Vicars party in the world, join us as we celebrate the UK Meet in the best way we know: telling the story.

As a follow-up to the critically acclaimed British Flash and Tea and Crumpet anthologies, our talented writers bring you sixteen stories about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and genderqueer characters enjoying what Britain and mainland Europe have to offer, with their wonderfully diverse range of cultures and landscapes and some incredibly colourful and quirky people.

The most important thing I think any anthology needs is a strong opening story, one that will hook the reader and want them to keep going. I was curious about Post Mortem, the opening story, but it really doesn’t give you anything to grab your attention. It was unengaging and it was only my hope that there were other better stories did I keep reading. It was only by a slim chance did I actually keep going because so many times I was prepared to add this to my DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. My DNF pile is small but I was getting the same feeling from the first half of this anthology that I have had with books before. The fact I told myself that I may be missing out on other good stories kept me going, I was eventually rewarded but it was a long road.

The theme of this anthology is a little vague. The introduction states it is to show off how great the LGBTQIA community have it in Britain and in Europe. It was published in 2012 when Britain was on its high from the Olympics and the Queen had her Diamond Jubilee. None of these events are mentioned in the story but 2012 was also the 3rd annual meeting of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet and to celebrate this anthology was created. The idea is sweet enough, a chance to celebrate the good times of being part of the community in Britain at the time and this is reflected in the stories in as much as they are nice stories, things aren’t complicated, there’s no altercations or conflict that I could tell due to a character’s sexuality or gender.

There are multiple trans stories, gay and lesbian romances, as well as a BDSM story. Content warning wise not every story involves sex but some do which are described in detail though not graphic or overly explicit. In a way they are the good examples of stories; the LGBTQ characters aren’t there as a plot point, nothing really centres around their sexuality, it is just a part of the overall story because it affects who they interact with and how. It isn’t an issue of contention or a problem which was refreshing.

Having said that, only half of these stories were actually interesting. Maybe even less. Many were half and half, some parts were interesting but within the same story I was bored to pieces. There were a few exceptions that only barely made the mark: Vidi Velo Vici was good, basic but had a good ending. The better ones were Dressing Down and Zones for the humour and the heart and for something like Zones it is a great story about discovery and acceptance which is subtle, but certainly there. Lost in London was another rare gem as was My Husband and Social Whirl. The rest I was not interested in, and to only have six out of sixteen stories grab my attention, it doesn’t say much about an anthology I was rally expecting more from.

The genres range from contemporary to the paranormal and magical. I found I couldn’t engage with the paranormal as much, I preferred those in modern settings. The genders and sexualities present was a great diversity and something I was impressed with. As I say, without a theme as such, the general acceptance of LGBTQ people in Britain was a great starting point because it normalised these occurrences and while it was a theme, it also showed how to make gender and sexuality naturally part of a story and not only there to be a plot point in itself.

Honestly the second half is better than the first, I am glad I persevered because I found the stories in the second half more enjoyable, certainly more diverse. Even for a LGBTQ anthology there are only so many times you can read about gay men before you start wanting to see something different. But even so, to only like six stories, there’s more issues than just that to contend with.

You can purchase Lashings of Sauce via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Book that Made Me edited by Judith Ridge

Published: 1st September 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Non Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

The Book That Made Me is a celebration of the books that influenced some of the most acclaimed authors from Australia and the world. Inspirational. Affecting.

A perfect collection of personal stories for book lovers!

Personal stories by fantastic authors such as Markus Zusak, Jaclyn Moriarty, Shaun Tan, Mal Peet, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Simon French, Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell, Bernard Beckett, Ursula Dubosarsky, Rachael Craw, Sue Lawson, Felicity Castagna, Benjamin Law, Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, James Roy, Alison Croggon, Will Kostakis and Randa Abdel-Fattah. Also features black and white cartoons by Shaun Tan!

I picked up this book because there were stories from authors that I love to read and the premise sounded really interesting. There’s always a risk with anthologies that a reader won’t enjoy all the stories equally and unfortunately this was the case for me. Sometimes it is only a few but I found with this collection I couldn’t engage with a lot of the stories. I wanted to enjoy them, I wanted to read about what books had an impact on these writers but I struggled to get through many of the stories. This may be my own personal issue and perhaps it was because they were personal essays and not fictional stories, but I kept putting the book down and finding reasons to skim.

I shouldn’t be too harsh, there are 32 stories in this anthology and some certainly were engaging; they were humorous and fascinating stories about how a single book, whether it was a massive dislike or a fascination with a concept, changed how the author saw the world and shaped who they wanted to be. Will Kostakis told how his hatred of a set book in primary school inspired him to write his own story, Benjamin Law wrote how he fell in love with Roald Dahl and reading things ten year olds probably shouldn’t be reading, while so many more mentioned that books were their treasures and offered them an escape. There were stories from indigenous authors and how their culture and stories impacted them, and there’s also voices from minorities in Australia who talk about never seeing themselves in books and how the culture of their parents affected the books they were exposed to.

These stories opened my eyes to how different people had access to different books, some read the same books I had read as a kid, and certainly the age ranges between these authors offered a wider range of books again. The reasons how and why these books made an impact were interesting in themselves. I’ve certainly felt this way about books I’ve read. My book was Checkers by John Marsden. I read that when I was in high school and it cemented my decision to want to write so I understand why these essays exist, I only wish I enjoyed more of them.

The format was not only essays, there were lists, comics, dot points, poems, and a few people had more than one book that shaped them. A nice surprise were the Shaun Taun illustrations sprinkled throughout. Tan asked random strangers why they read and seeing the responses sprinkled throughout with an accompanying sketch was an adorable and entertaining way to break up the stories.

Even though it wasn’t my favourite anthology, I still enjoyed seeing how so many books, especially ones I had read myself, had such an impact on these authors. Just shows you the true power of reading and how people can read the same book in so many different ways.

You can purchase The Book that Made Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Previous Older Entries