#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


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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Cover Reveal! Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales

Hello everyone! It’s been ages since I did a cover reveal on this blog, and this one is especially exciting because I’m one of the authors!

Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales brings together eight stories that reflect the Australian experience of Christmas: it’s summer here in December and we spend December 25 at the beach or under the air conditioner, gorging on seafood and lemonade.

Over the past few months, I’ve got to know some fantastic other Australian writers via our hashtag #6amAusWriters, and I’m super-proud to be included!

There’s something for everyone in Christmas Australis, whether you are a fan of contemporary stories, sci-fi, fantasy, or even steampunk!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Here it is!

The fabulous cover was designed by Cassi Strachan at Creative Girl Tuesday. Thank you so much, Cassi!

The contributors are V. E. Patton, Darren Kasenkow, Emily Wrayburn (that’s me!), Lyn Webster, Andrew Roff, Natasha O’Connor, Madeleine D’Este and Belinda Grant.

My story is called Operation: Sugarplum, and it’s a modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker.  Here’s a bit about it.

Clara gets more than she bargained for when she plays a new virtual reality platform with boy-genius developer, Max Drosselmeier.

Suddenly virtual characters are coming after her in reality and the only way to stop them is to play the game to the end…

It’s a bit of this:

Combined with a bit of this:

To great effect if I do say so myself. 😉

You can find out more about the other stories on the Amazon Page.

You can pre-order now by clicking the button below for the special pre-order price of $3 US, before it bumps up to $3.99 US on release day, November 11.

don’t forget to add it to your GoodReads TBR shelf! 

#BeatTheBacklist Book Review: “the Mother of Dreams: Portrayals of Women in Modern Japanese Fiction” ed. Makoto Ueda

Title: The Mother of Dreams: Portrayals of Women in Modern Japanese Fiction
Author: Makoto Ueda (editor), various authors and translators
Short stories
Date Read:
22/12/2016 – 04/01/2017
Rating: ★★★


This anthology is divided into five sections: the Maiden, the Mistress, the Wife, the Mother and the Working Woman. As with all short story anthologies, some of the stories in this volume impressed me more than others.

To be honest, I found that many of the stories featured displayed a rather grim outlook on womanhood, regardless of the archetype being explored. This book was originally published in 1986, so the “modern” of the title is actually the post-war period. Of course, there was a lot of tension regarding the roles of women the world over at the time, and I wonder if that had something to do with the overall tone that I was experiencing.

The language used in these English translations also felt very formal, so while some of the stories did capture my interest, they still came across as somewhat dull. I don’t speak Japanese, so I don’t know if this was to capture the tone of the originals, or again perhaps a product of the time.

I feel like I’m doing a lot of moaning about this book, so I should also mention the things I did like. I enjoyed getting a peek into Japanese culture, and witnessing how everyday routines differ between Japanese people and Westerners. There were also some stories where I thought the premise was quite good, and if the above complaints hadn’t been quite so obvious, I could have found them really engaging. Overall, though, this was not a terribly exciting read.

This review is part of my 2017 Beat the Backlist Challenge. For more information, click here.

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“That mechanic was going to change everything” // Review of “Stars Above” by Marissa Meyer

Title: Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles 4.5)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fairytale retelliing/YA/SFF
Date Read:
Rating: ★★


This  book is a compilation of short stories set within the Lunar Chronicles universe. While in some cases it was interesting to find out more about how the characters figured into the larger story, I ultimately didn’t think any of them added much of interest.

While I won’t do a full rundown of every story in the collection, a few highlights include the story of how Michelle Benoit ended up hiding the tiny Cinder in her basement, stories of how Wolf ended up in the Queen’s Army, how Cress ended up in her satellite, and an example of Thorne as a young boy. There is also an epilogue that takes place after the conclusion of Winter.

The best way to describe how most of these came across to me is to say they felt like material that the author should have written for herself, so she knows her own characters’s back stories, but it’s not really necessary for us to also know it in this much detail.  We got the necessary information when we were reading the Lunar Chronicles. The only one that I felt really gave us additional insight was The Princess and the Guard, which was one of the longer stories in the collection and gave us some real insight into Winter and why she chose to stop using her Lunar Gift.

I am glad I read this, as it was the only one of Marissa Meyer’s books that I had not got around to yet, and I got through it in  a day because as usual, her writing is extremely readable. But I wouldn’t say you need to rush out and buy it if you haven’t already. Definitely one to get from  the library.

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