#AWW2020 Book Review of “The Damsel Gauntlet” by P. A. Mason

Title: The Damsel Gauntlet (Gretchen’s [Mis]Adventures #1)
Author:
P. A. Mason
Genre: Fantasy/Satire
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 10/04/20 – 11/04/20
Rating:
★★★

This new short reads series from P. A. Mason promises to be chock-full of things I enjoy.

Witches. Sarcasm. Fairy tale characters. Subverting tropes. Humour. 

I don’t want to spoil the concept of this first instalment but just let me say that when I read why the King and Queen were hiring Gretchen for, I laughed out loud. 

Gretchen’s a great character. I enjoy her sarcastic front, but underneath she really sees the good in people and just wants things to work out all right in the end.

This is the first in what will be a series of monthly installments on the Kindle short-reads store, but it is much more than that. Visit the website for bonus content each time an episode comes out.   


Thank you to P. A. Mason for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#AWW2019 Book Review: “Portable Curiosities” by Julie Koh

Title: Portable Curiosities
Author: Julie Koh
Audio book narrator: Lauren Hamilton Neill
Genre: Short stories/satire
Target audience: Adult
Date Read:
10/11/19 – 25/11/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

What an interesting collection of stories! As I’m getting into writing more short stories myself, I am finding myself drawn more to reading them. This collection from Julie Koh is clever, eyebrow-raising and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

The stories examine being Asian in a white world, being female in a male world, diversity, capitalism and consumerism, social media influencers, and many other aspects of the modern world. They do so in an absurdist, satirical way.

There were some that I really enjoyed, such as The Magnificent Breasts, an indictment on the male objectification of women, and they way women are gaslit into staying in abusive relationships.

I will be honest that there were others where I got to the end and wasn’t 100% sure what the story had been trying to say. But I really appreciated that these stories were speculative and funny as they satirised the world around us. I have found a lot of the short story genre tends to be very realistic, and lacking humour as it tries to be deep. Or maybe I’m just reading the wrong short stories? Either way, this was a nice break and I definitely intend to pick up Julie Koh’s other collection not too far in the future.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“It’s always darkest before the ultimate sparkle.” // Review of “Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Audio Book Narrator:
Libba Bray
Genre:
YA/dystopia/satire
Date Read: 26/01/2017 – 08/02/2017
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

You’re going to have to forgive me if I gush a lot about this book. It was just so very clever. It’s quite a dark satire, which was right up my alley, and it touched on so many issues that affect teenager girls, while never straying from the larger plot.

In a slightly alternate America where nearly everything, including the Presidency, is a product of The CorporationTM, a plane carrying the 50 State Finalists of the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a tropical island, killing all but 12 of the Beauty Queens and all of their attendants. Now the girls have to survive not only what the jungle throws at them, but also a secret plot to use their deaths to start a war.

The thing about this book is that in the hands of many another author, it would have turned into one of those books where the girls all turn on each other in complete bitchiness. There is a little bit of bitchiness, but the girls rise above it, knowing that they need to survive. These girls are capable! And they learn huge amounts about themselves and each other while they do it all, including that sex is not a dirty word and that they can be more than just pretty. They all have their own reasons for joining the pageant, and these come out as the book goes on. The girls all have individual personalities, and I was really impressed with the way Bray handled a large ensemble cast without any of the characters falling into two-dimensions. That’s not to say they’re not stereotypical. They are, because the book addressing those stereotypes, but I came to sympathise with these girls anyway as I learnedtheir stories and watch them evolve.

The book also covers so many issues that teen girls have to face, including body image/positivity, , female sexuality, transexuality, racism, rape culture, the way women are expected to apologise for existing and a whole host of others that I am forgetting right now.

I admit that it did disappoint me a bit when a group of ridiculously attractive boys showed up to help save the day. For a book that was so much about female empowerment, having that did lessen the effect a bit. It’s not that boys aren’t allowed or anything, and their presence did serve as a vehicle to address some of the sexuality issues that the book was interested in, but it would have been nice for a book like this to have the girls save the day on their own.

I am often a bit wary when I see that an author is narrating their own book (a writer is not necessarily a performer) but Libba Bray’s narration is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. True, I did download the ebook in order to finish a bit quicker, but if you can find the time to listen to it, do!

Disclaimer: this book’s brand of humour will not be for everyone. I’m a very sarcastic, deadpan person, so the fact that so much of the satire was delivered in that form really appealed to me. Judging by other reviews, some people have found it completely over the top and unrealistic. And it is, to a point. The footnotes, “commerical breaks” and “words from your sponsor” (the Corporation) also make the format a unique one that won’t appeal to all readers. But I hope you won’t let all that put you off giving this book a chance.


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“People needed to believe in gods, if only because it was so hard to believe in people.” // Review of “Pyramids” by Terry Pratchett

Title: Pyramids (Discworld #7)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: SFF/Satire
Date Read: 11
/12/2016 – 22/12/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was the first Discworld book I’d read in quite a while, and it was just what I needed at the time. I read a few Discworld books back when I was a bit too young to get them, but this time around, I was laughing out loud.

Teppic is the heir to the throne of the River Kingdom, but he has been training in the Assassin’s Guild in Ankh-Morpok for several years when his father passes away and he has to return home. Having got used to the modern trappings of the city, such as plumbing, puts Teppic at odds with the High Priest, Dios, who insists that millenia-old traditions must be followed. And then things only get worse when the giant pyramid built to house Teppic’s father starts causing quantum havoc and the gods of the River Kingdom start appearing up and down the river.

Given the nature of satire, this isn’t really the sort of book I’m used to reading – the YA ones where I can get completely unhealthily invested in the characters, but the characters were all well-developed in a way that furthered the points that Pratchett was making about religion and sticking to tradition in the face of every suggestion to get with the times. I laughed at Teppic’s awkwardness regarding Dio’s inability to let him actually do any ruling, and I sympathised with the dead former King, who was unable to move on and had to watch all his wishes being decidedly not carried out.

Some of the quantum stuff got a bit confusing, as there would be several versions of the same character, all from slightly different time periods, in the same room at the same time. For the most part, though, I was able to keep these straight. Time travel-type stuff always runs the risk of getting confusing, but I think Sir Terry managed to strike the right balance.

The writing style and narrative voice reminded me a lot of Douglas Adams. Given the era during which the book was written, this isn’t entirely surprising. It is interesting to see how an author aws prolific as Terry Pratchett developed over the course of the series and his career.

As I said, it had been a good while since I last read a Discworld book, but Pyramids has definitely put me in the mood to return to my shelf of Pratchett books and keep working through them.


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