• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords and reviews. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

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  • Thursday
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCLXVI

    The coming months look to be busy. There’s the holidays coming up, of course, but more besides that. My aunt booked a beach house for a little over a week and has extended an invitation for everyone in the family to come by and visit, and since I live only two hours away from there I’d feel like a Bad Nephew™ if I didn’t go. Plus this is the same beach/beach house that at least partially inspired

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  • 1 week
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCLXV

    Shrink Laureate’s got a brand new Gen 5 Bingo Contest started! To help stink up the pot (to use a little cajun parlance), PresentPerfect and I have offered our services to review the top five stories. Shrink Laureate is also calling for judges to help out, so head on over there for rules if you’re interested.

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  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCLXIV

    It’s been an uneventful week, outside of the gargantuan amount of paperwork. I kept looking for the part where they demanded my signature in my own blood atop a pentagram, but I guess the house I’m trying to buy isn’t extravagant enough for that.

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  • 3 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCLXIII

    Those of you who have followed me long enough are aware that I have an addiction to video games. I really do consider it an “addiction”, considering how easy it is for me to blow a weekend on gaming without realizing it. I’ve been trying to find some way to counteract that so that I can do more writing. Ironically, video games may have given me the answer.

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  • 3 weeks
    Concepts & Creations: Distant Worlds

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Paul's Monday Reviews XIX · 11:30am Jul 13th, 2015

I suppose now's a good time to mention my Author Scoring thingamajig. I added a guide to my user page, but figured it would be good to explain things here too.

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I've been working on collecting my reviews into my schedule spreadsheet. This is about more than just having a nice, compact list of stories to view, however; it's also a means of assigning points to the authors I read. The purpose of this is simple: I want a direct means of determining if an author deserves my follow. It works like this: for every story I read and review, I'll assign a score based on where the story lands in my bookshelves. Authors who manage to get 10 or more points earn my follow.

This means that anyone can earn my follow just by writing enough stories that rate "Worth It" or higher. This is alleviated a bit by the fact that it can take me ages to read and review enough stories by any one author to achieve 10 points. So not only do you have to write so many stories, you also have to get me to read them in the first place. I may come up with an alternative later to make it harder than just 'write so many stories,' like a median score requirement, but I'm not sure.

In the meantime, only three authors have earned more than 10 points in the 107 stories reviewed as of today: JawJoe with 13 points, RainbowBob with 12 points and shortskirtsandexplosions with 10 points. I was following them already, but at least now there's something resembling numerical evidence that they deserve it.

Anyway, take a look at my profile page if you want to see the info splattered there on my review rules and scoring system. For now, let's get to those reviews.

Stories for This Week:

Where the Heart Is by Pascoite
The Talk by Alexstrazsa
Sins of the Fathers by Grand_Moff_Pony (Request)
Three Goddesses, the Apple, and the Stallion by Snake Staff
The Hooves Family Tree by Pastel Pony

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet? (4 Points): 0
Pretty Good (2 Points): 3
Worth It (1 Point): 1
Not Bad (0 Points): 1
None (-1 Point): 0

This was great. No, really. It’s the typical life in the day of a decided non-typical dog. I love dogs. I’ve had one most of my life, and only don’t have one now because I think it’s cruel to keep one cooped up in a little apartment with only a few walks on a leash a day. Dogs need space, and I won’t have one until I’ve got that.

With this story, Pascoite does a great job getting into the head of Winona. It’s blatantly apparent that he’s been around a dog or two in his time; the absent-mindedness, the playfulness, the little habits. Watching Winona interact with the Apple clan reminded me a lot of many of the dogs I’ve had in my life, and thus was I pleased.

Then the twist came. It was clever, original and mildly worrying. I like it. I like it a lot.

My only complaint is that this could have been much bigger. There are a lot of divergent possibilities with this concept just waiting to be explored, and I long for the full-scale treatment it deserves.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good
Author Score: 5 (after 3 stories)

"Tavi, what the fuck is dubstep?!"

Well, that’s one way to catch a reader’s attention.

This story was interesting in its own, quiet little way. We have Octavia – calm, patient and just a touch witty – enjoying her tea when Vinyl comes barging in to ask the above question. As is often the case with the fandom, Vinyl is lazy, loud and not just a little dense, but somehow Octavia manages to deal with her without so much as a hair falling out of place on her pretty little head.

This story is all about subtle humor. Rather than try to make you fall out of your chair laughing, it aims for casual amusement. The general gist: Octavia putting up with Vinyl, who wants to know what dubstep is and why everypony she sees expects her to be an expert in it. The idea of Vinyl being focused on pop music instead of her more common associations was a nice touch, and not entirely out of left field if you consider what little we knew about her (and, arguably, still know about her) at the time of writing.

And of course, Octavia’s sense of impending wrongness at the end of the story was a nice touch.

I note from the comments that some have called this storying dull or boring. This is true if you demand raucous ridiculousness, a fast pace or tons of emotion being thrown around. This is a tale in which a peaceful morning is interrupted by a minor tornado, yet somehow the morning retains its grace. If you’re here looking for excitement, look elsewhere.

If you want a pleasant little story that may earn a chuckle or two, try this.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good
Author Score: 2 (after 1 story)

After seeing my highly critical reviews of other horror stories, GMP asked if I would give his foray into the genre a look. Sins of the Fathers is GMP’s entry into Equestria Daily’s “More Dangerous Game” contest. It earned an honorable mention and acts as a re-imagining and use of the themes and imagery of the infamous (and atrocious) fanfiction, Sergeant Sprinkles’ Cupcakes.

To be honest, this didn’t go where I was expecting. By the name alone, I anticipated Pinkie’s father coming into the picture somewhere. Instead, we get a story about a Pinkie desperate for a foal and, after three horribly failed attempts, going not just a little nutty. I was a little disappointed that the setting was generally the same as it was in Cupcakes, but I admit it is the most logical choice.

There’s one mistake I feel GMP made, and it’s an unfortunately common one amongst these kinds of stories: a distinct lack of atmosphere. Even though the events are disturbing on their own, they are brought forward in a very direct way, with no time taken to really delve into the potential horror of the moment. This is the thing that, to me, differentiates a good horror from a great horror, and I’d argue that it applies to all other genres as well. More so to horror though, as pulling out the emotion is crucial for a horror to achieve that intense fear the reader is looking for. As this (and, regrettably, most) horror story is written, the reader must go into the story wanting to be afraid, with a specific mindset prepared ahead of time to achieve the emotion via the reader’s own anticipation.

Basically, instead of putting fear in the reader, the reader has to bring the fear in with them.

Now, this doesn’t apply to the reader who is terrified of acts alone, or who hasn’t been desensitized through a saturation of dark material. If you read about something bad happening and that brings out the fear in you, then you’ll be frightened by this. But if you’re looking for the writer to really raise the creep factor with evocative imagery and character presence, you may find this lacking.

One thing that particularly hurt the story in my mind was Pinkie’s lengthy monologue explaining the particulars of her motive and intentions. No doubt, what she said was disturbing, but I would have been far more disturbed if I had been shown evidence of her actions and/or been forced to piece the truth together myself. Pinkie had no sense of presence; she was just Pinkie. A demented Pinkie, but still just Pinkie.

Now, having said all that, I should point out that this is still way better than Cupcakes ever was (although that’s not saying much). I really like GMP’s motive behind Pinkie’s insanity, and the slow buildup that had Thunderlane gradually realizing his predicament was competently executed. Also, GMP avoided going the path of superfluous gore, keeping the brutality to a realistic horror rather than a ridiculous one. As someone who prefers horrors that don’t show characters spilling hundreds of gallons of blood from a simple laceration, I wholeheartedly approve.

Above all else, Pinkie was legitimately creepy. She wasn’t some pointless psychopath, but a traumatized and broken mare who resorted to mania and violence to achieve her dream in whatever way she could, even if the final result was twisted beyond sanity. What’s more, her solution was certainly the stuff of nightmares.

In the end, Sins of the Fathers is a great idea and very well devised. There’s a minor plothole or two, but those are to horror what lover’s quarrels are to romance, and thus not to be taken too seriously. The only truly major fault of the story is it’s less-than-evocative written style, which kept me from really getting into the story until it was almost over.

It’s a very close call as to whether this should go into my Worth It or Pretty Good bookshelf. It was dangling between the two for a while, but then I checked the stories already in my folders and saw that SS&E’s Button Hash is in the Pretty Good pile. I can tell you right now, Button Hash was far scarier to me than this, and based on that comparison alone…

Bookshelf: Worth It
Author Score: 5 (after 2 stories)

This was an interesting one, and my feelings are mixed. Three Goddesses, the Apple, and the Stallion is offered as a classic fable of Equestria in which three goddesses – of the day, the night, and love – are offered an apple by a spirit of chaos which, supposedly, belongs only to the fairest of the three. This leads to an age of petty squabbling, leaving the spirit free to roam the land spreading mischief. When a young, handsome stallion comes along to beg for the goddesses’ help, they give him the choice of deciding who the most beautiful of them is.

The story caught me thoroughly off guard. I didn’t even notice the Alternate Universe tag (silly me), so when the legend began talking about a Princess of Love who lived thousands of years before the founding of Equestria, I balked. What I ended up reading directly defied all Equestrian lore, and it tainted my view a little. It was only after I finished and took another look at the description that I realized my error, and it’s a good thing; my review would have been far harsher otherwise.

Make no mistake, the fable is interesting. I love the concept, the style and the way it reflects real-world legends in its plot (most obviously the Golden Apple of Discord, from which I’m reasonably sure the author got the idea), which is great for things like this. I do wish that the author had clarified whether the story was meant to be a real history of the AU or just a tale devised by some pony way back when, but I recognize that the mystery is part of the charm.

Stories like this are always interesting, and I can see why it earned such high praise when it was released. At the same time, it doesn’t strike me as a particularly challenging idea on the whole, especially considering its blatant similarity to an established story that has already inspired many (the Golden Apple is by no means an uncommon inspiration). While I think Snake Staff did an altogether great job adapting the legend to Equestria and I happily recommend it, the simplicity of the story prevents me from giving it top honors.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good
Author Score: 2 (after 1 story)

Here we have another story that earned a ton of attention when it first came out, and I can see why. The story has a lot of public appeal full of potential feels and d’awww, with a nice, happy ending.

But it takes a bit more than some d’awww to reel me in, and you’ll note I said ‘potential’ feels.

The story is generally simple: a class assignment from Cheerilee reveals that Dinky doesn’t know about her grandparents, and so we get to see the strife brought between everyone’s favorite mailmare and her parents as a result of Dinky’s unknown sire. It’s a short and direct story that jumps right to the point, which is by no means a bad thing.

Unfortunately, everything about the story felt rushed. There’s no attempt by the author to pace the scenes, and as a result the behavior comes out flat. For the vast majority of the story, the only thing we have to go by in terms of a character’s emotional state is the dialogue, which doesn’t do anywhere near enough. There are points when Dinky just starts to cry out of the blue, and all I can think of is “why?” There’s no build up to let us gather her emotional state, no signs in the narrative to clue the reader in, and then suddenly boom, tears are shed.

I see this a lot with newer authors; learning how to build up emotional power in a story requires practice. The good news is that this story came out only about a month after Pastel Pony arrived on the FIMFiction scene, and the author has had plenty of time to develop her craft. Knowing that this story could have been a powerhouse of emotions, I aim to read a much more recent story by her in hopes of gauging her development.

In the meantime, The Hooves Family Tree is a story that is deserving of its mass fan approval, but just isn’t where it needs to be for me.

Bookshelf: Not Bad
Author Score: 0 (after 1 story)

Stories for Next Week:

You Cannot Give Up Again by Selbi
Growing Pains by Karrakaz
Rainbow Dash: Re-Animator by JawJoe (request)
Lessons Learned from Loyalty by Whateverdudezb
Pinkie Pie's Foray into Absent-Minded Treason by Desavlos

Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

Paul's Monday Reviews XI
Paul's Monday Reviews XII
Paul's Monday Reviews XIII
Paul's Tuesday Reviews I – "I'm Not Dead" Edition
Paul's Monday Reviews XIV
Paul's Monday Reviews XV
Paul's Monday Reviews XVI
Paul's Monday Reviews XVII
Paul's Monday Reviews XVIII
Paul's tuesday Reviews II – "Where did the Time Go?" Edition

Comments ( 9 )

Thank you a million times over for the review. I like to think you're a bit of a guru when it comes to dark and horror, and I had never written a word of Dark/Horror before, so I was very interested to see your take on where I dropped the ball. (and where I can improve if I write dark again, esp. in the 'evocative' dept.)

One of EQD's folks described the monologue as akin to the classic 'bad guy speech' that so many movies have, only the twist was in this case, Pinkie actually gets away with it. But, you're right in that it drives the narrative for the reader, rather than letting them discover it and piece it together on their own.

Also, I think you were spot on regarding the need for the reader to bring the fear with them, rather than wade into it as they go. I think all of the Cupcakes-based entries for that contest hit that same pothole, and rather unavoidably too. Given how well-known/infamous the original is, you'd be hard pressed to find a reader that can come into one of these entries without knowledge of the original and some mental bias for/against it.

Still, I'm glad you at least somewhat enjoyed it. Given your skill in the dark genre, I'll count that as a minor success on my part, lol. ;) Thanks again for the review!


I've noticed that you put a lot of importance on pacing. That's good, because pacing, to me, is a thing that can make or break a story. So I'm always concerned about it in my stories.

I wonder if you could find the time to review one of my stories: The Best Job In Equestria? In your own time, naturally.


Also, I think you were spot on regarding the need for the reader to bring the fear with them, rather than wade into it as they go. I think all of the Cupcakes-based entries for that contest hit that same pothole, and rather unavoidably too. Given how well-known/infamous the original is, you'd be hard pressed to find a reader that can come into one of these entries without knowledge of the original and some mental bias for/against it.

No, no, no! That isn't at all what I was referring to. Prior knowledge has nothing to do with this. It's not about the previous stories and a reader's notions going in, it's about how the story itself is written. It is up to the writer to create an atmosphere of dread and fear, not the reader. If the reader has to do that themselves, then there's something wrong. This isn't a problem with a story's origins; entirely new stories with incredibly good premises can (and usually do) fall for the same trap.

Cupcakes is bad because it's so ridiculously over-the-top and gory as to be almost slapstick, but it did do one thing right: it got into Rainbow's head. This is the single most important aspect of any horror story. The readers have to be made to feel the characters' fear, and that's not an easy thing to achieve. This is the major problem with a lot of the horror stories I see nowadays; they focus too much on the events and not enough on the psychology. People grow numb to seeing death, and even torture has less of an impact when you just see it so many times, but to have the reader know the pain? That's the thing that makes the gut sink and the heart pound.

Consider it added to my list!

Yes, pacing is very important for me. It's also a very hard balance to manage, just like so many other things in literature.

3233985 Ah, okay. I see what you mean, and apologize for the misinterpretation on my end.

A fair point for sure, on readers feeling the pain in their guts. Definitely something I can improve on next time. :)

Eh, it's really more my fault for not being clear in my meaning. No biggie.

I was getting followed by PaulAsaran before it was cool! :duck:

But seriously, my life's way too chaotic to do anything even approaching what you're doing. But I can dream. :unsuresweetie:

This was a pretty mediocre week, by your account. I don't see anything of particular interest. The most dangerous game entries all for cupcakes in particular got really repetitive for me after a while. There just didn't seem to be a lot that you can do with the premise beyond Crazy Pinkie Pie. But on that note, may I make a request? Motion of the Stars by Carabas. It's a MMDG entry that I edited extensively that uses the Fallout Equestria premise. As of writing it has a 115 to 0 up/down rating.

I already had The Tempest RiLed, which is why I had been ignoring that one (remember I try to avoid having more than one story by the same author on my list). Requests are another matter entirely, though. Added!

And I dunno, maybe. I'd say I liked The Talk and Where the Heart Is the most out of this week's stories.

Thank you very much for the review! I'm glad there was someone who got the more subtle humor of the story.

Woo! Another review blog. I'll definitely read The Talk soon, and if you're description is anything to go by (and you've yet to lead me astray) its the kind of story that I like the most. Plus Octavia, since she's best pone.

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