Review: Star-Crossed

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

We are smack dab in the middle of summer and I hope you have found some solid summer reading picks for your beach bags!

Or for cramming in your bag to sneak in a park near your office, whatever works for you this time of year. I’m definitely not getting my reading done near a body of water but I am using naptimes to sit quietly on the front porch (deck? Balcony? I’m never sure) and read outside.

One of the books that I have loved this summer is Minnie Darke’s Star-Crossed.

From Goodreads:

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.

star crossed

This was a bubbly, fun, clever, joyful read for me. I am a Pisces and fully buy into astrology (and tarot cards and mediums and anything else that connects us to the other side and/or fate) and this book really allowed me to lean into that. The book is structured around the signs of the zodiac, following Justine and Nick over the course of a full calendar year, starting in Aquarius. I cannot even fathom the level of expertise that Darke possesses when it comes to the stars!

While we follow Justine and Nick as their paths cross and Justine decides to help out fate a little, we also get glimpses into the lives of other horoscope readers, making decisions based on Justine’s ‘predictions.’ If you’re a Capricorn, you probably think the entire premise of this book is ridiculous. But I guarantee that the Libras and Cancers reading this feel like Star-Crossed is speaking to them. This book made me want to go out and learn everything about astrology! And I’m already that person that goes “oh my god are you a ____?”

I’m loving that romantic comedy is having a bit of a revival in books. Star-Crossed is absolutely a part of the movement and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. I’m honestly thinking about giving this one a re-read at some point.


Library ghettoes

I started reading Beatriz Williams for the first time this year. I bought A Hundred Summers and the next time I went to the library, I thought I would go ahead and pick up another one of her books.

When I got to the W section, I couldn’t find any of her books. I assumed that she was incredibly popular and all of her books were currently out. The next time I was in the library, I did the same thing. Still, none of her books were there. I decided to use the computer to see what was going on and learned that Beatriz Williams’ books are considered Romance books and have their own section.

The problem, for me, is that I’ve long held Romance novels to be the domain of silver haired golden girls. I couldn’t just roll up to the Romance section and have other people see me searching the shelves for a book to read! I strolled past, like I was just passing through, and quickly dipped down to pick one up – luckily the Ws fell at the end of the row.


Me, sneaking into the Romance section

I’ve since returned a couple of times (for more) and every time I get the same feeling. I actually stopped and checked out some of the authors the other day and realized that I had looked for some of these authors in the past but never found them because I never go to the Romance section.

And this got me thinking: why the hell is there a romance section? And how are these decisions made? Jane Fallon, Jane Green and Sophie Kinsella are not Romance but Nora Roberts and Beatriz Williams are?

What about Danielle Steele? I’ve definitely seen her books in the regular fiction section.

The thing is, there are probably loads of readers that have never read work by authors they might really enjoy because they’ve been relegated to this Romance ghetto. I used to bypass the crime fiction/mystery section for the same reason. I thought that those books were only for old people (why am I so ageist?!) and gave them a pass until I started reading Agatha Christie several years ago. Crime fiction is still fiction. Romance novels are still fiction. Fantasy is still fiction.

Graphic novels – those can have their own section, that’s totally fine.

Why can’t they all live together in one big fiction section?

If you know the actual reason, please tell me!


Valley of the Dolls

There’s a woman that works at “my” Chapters store that has become my book guru. She is so good at finding you books that you will love, so when she talks, I listen. (For the record, I didn’t used to take her so seriously, feeling fairly confident in my own book choice-making capabilities. But every once in a while you need to listen to someone else’s voice)

A while back she caught me killing my lunch hour in the store and recommended that I read Valley of the Dolls.

This was before I listened to all of her words. Valley of the Dolls? Really lady?

I left that day, empty handed. But the recommendation stayed with me and when I was at the library a couple of weeks ago, I saw it and knew it was meant to be.

Valley of the Dolls is amazing.

dollsIt starts off slow, builds to fabulous and ends in the totally f*cked up and heartbreaking. Basically the perfect read.

Let’s be honest – this book has been around for nearly 50 years. I’m not the first to read it. But for those of you that haven’t had the pleasure, here’s a brief synopsis:

We follow Anne, Neely and Jennifer from their early days in New York after World War II as they try and make something of themselves. Neely is desperate to be a star, Jennifer knows she has a good body that will need to make her money and Anne just wants to find the right man. A few chapters in and Anne already has a giant rock on her finger and is making all the right connections to benefit Neely and Jennifer.

But soon the stresses of their lives catch up with them and they turn to drugs, little blue and red “dolls”, to help them sleep, lose weight and get through each day.

And this is where the book took an unexpected turn for me. I expected sex and drugs. I expected romances and hissy fits. I didn’t expect the tragedy or the mental illness. It was truly heartbreaking in parts, insanely frustrating in others. The story takes place from 1945 into the 60s but certain themes could be as true today as they were then. And the ending! You know I’m a sucker for an ending and this one was very unexpected, cruel even.

I was sad to finish it, even sadder to know that I will have to return it to the library. But score another for my book guru – wonder what recommendations she has in store for me next.