• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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PaulAsaran


Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords, and reviews both independently and for Seattle's Angels. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

More Blog Posts463

  • Thursday
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXV

    Hello again, FIMFiction. I’ve had quite the lazy week, but it was on purpose. I was starting to feel the burnout after achieving ~2,000 words/day for most of July, so I figured it was about time. But now I think I’m ready to get back into it.

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    8 comments · 253 views
  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIV

    My schedule has a problem. It’s one that’s been building up for a while now.

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    20 comments · 409 views
  • 3 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIII

    I’ve decided that I’m going to take a minor vacation in August, if only so as to use up some of those vacation days from work before they’re gone in January. With this in mind, I figured I’d also not read anything over the course of those four days. Ah, but how to do that when they’re already on the schedule? I don’t want to push them back, it’s becoming more and more important to me to build a

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    5 comments · 362 views
  • 4 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXII

    Wow, last weekend was a busy one. Family gathering was relatively small this year, for obvious reasons. Although I must emphasize the “relative” part; usually when there’s a big holiday like the 4th, we end up with 20 people or more present. This weekend was “only” nine, including me, my parents, and my brother’s family of six. That’s right, six. That boy is a glutton for punishment, I swear to

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    8 comments · 389 views
  • 5 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI

    My preliminary editing of the original fiction version of Guppy Love is all but finished! Soon I will have the entire story stored in GDocs and ready for prereading, which means it’s about time I started really looking for prereaders. I intend to ask the prereaders of the MLP version to come back to evaluate the changes, but I’d like to get a few others to offer a fresh perspective. I’m

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    16 comments · 375 views
Aug
6th
2015

Paul's Thursday Reviews II · 12:31pm Aug 6th, 2015

So before we get to the reviews, a little announcement. I fear I am slowly approaching a financial crisis, and if things don't turn around at work within the next two or three weeks then I may have to take extreme measures. To try and pad this situation, I've finally caved into my friends' suggestions and started work on a Patreon. It's not ready yet, but I wanted to go ahead and let people know that it's coming and I will appreciate whatever help can be offered. I'm trying to think on rewards that I can offer; if anyone has any good ideas, let me know. At the moment I'm thinking that I can do special review requests that bump a contributor's chosen story to the top of the list. I may also consider story commissions, but I really don't like that idea. I could also offer pre-reading services.

If anyone has any ideas, feel free to let me know!

Okie-dokie, that bit of real life put away. On to the reviews! We have some really good ones this week.

Stories for This Week:

Collaborators by Baal Bunny
Appletheosis by DuncanR
Seashell by Winston (Requested by Rayvinne)
Shipping Goggles by AbsoluteAnonymous (Re-read)
Sizable Differences by Karrakaz (Sequel – Growing Pains)

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 3
Pretty Good: 2
Worth It: 0
Not Bad: 0
None: 0


Sometimes I think there aren’t enough decent Daring Do stories out there, so when I see one I tend to consider it seriously. When I saw that Baal Bunny had a story with Ahuizotl and Daring Do teaming up, I had to give it a go. Turns out, it’s not exactly what I anticipated.

I’m not complaining.

Collaborators puts Daring in one of her most unusual situations ever. A.K. Yearling goes to her Manehattan publishing office only to find Ahuizotl waiting for her with an entirely new plan for bringing her down: a libel lawsuit for slandering his good name in public via her books. Yearling comes up with a fast solution by offering to let Ahuizotl co-author her next book and, to the surprise of absolutely everyone, he agrees. They then spend the next three months living together in her forest home trying to hammer out a book while not killing one another.

This story worked spectacularly, in every way a story can work. We learn more about both the characters, revealing Ahuizotl’s softer side and, more interestingly, the secret third persona of Daring Do and A.K. Yearling. The characters are interesting, the pacing is damn-near perfect, the tension in some scenes is palpable. I would love to provide some sort of scathing criticism or point out things that need correction, but seriously, I’ve got nothing. Perhaps a more apt mind would find something worthy of scorn, but alas, my mind is only so apt.

Not counting the Writeoff entries, this is the first story by Baal that I’ve read. I look forward to reading more.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?


Well now, this was certainly an interesting piece. DuncanR has crafted something genuinely unique, or so I feel, and the concept can be quite thought provoking. Appletheosis has the legendary serpent of the Garden of Eden (who goes by Zaraturvara) appear in the Everfree Forest, complete with the Tree of Knowledge. He is first encountered by Applejack, and then each of the Mane 6 decide to pay him a visit. With every visit, Zaraturvara hits the characters with moral and philosophical questions. For some, he has a profound effect. Others just find him annoying and distasteful. All Zaraturvara wants is someone to figure out his purpose, but he’s dealing with a race of mortals unlike any he’s ever known before, and far more developed than any other civilization was at the time he met them.

This story worked well. All the characters feel accurate to the show, as do their reactions. Most interestingly, it works to introduce to readers a different take on the Tree of Knowledge than what most know. Zaraturvara himself was an interesting character and I enjoyed watching him struggle to find somepony to understand him.

Best of all is the idea that Equestria might be the equivalent of the world prior to man’s attainment of the true knowledge of good and evil, where everypony is a metaphorical Adam or Eve just waiting to become aware of their own frail mortality. It makes me wonder if this story has doomed Equestria to become a world of strife, warfare and conflict… all thanks to a snake and his philosophical/theological queries. Is Equestria now on the path of the modern Earth and all its troubles? Is this supposed to be an improvement?

Therein lies one of my favorite aspects of this story: it forces the reader to think. That’s the whole point, and I am thoroughly impressed.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?


Seashell

By Winston
Requested by Rayvinne
Re-read
Previous Rating: Pretty Good

I read Seashell long ago, well prior to when I was doing reviews. I was of course planning to re-read it at some point, and imagine my surprise when Rayvinne shot me a message asking to read it and its sequel. By sheer coincidence, the timing of the request meant that I would re-read Seashell right after reading Born in Equestria, and that's some pretty good timing there.

Seashell is the story of Sunburst, a pegasus soldier with a certain love of isolation, as told from her own journal entries. Set several years after the events of the show, the journals tell of how Sunburst spends time as a guard at the castle of Princess Twilight Sparkle. Over time, the quiet and observant Sunburst comes to recognize that Twilight and her Captain of the Guard, Rainbow Dash, are hiding feelings both from one another and themselves, and so Sunburst begins to struggle with a desperate need to see something done about it.

The first chapter was highly praised by critics for its masterful visuals, and I'm joining that chorus. Sunburst's description of the Seawall is enough to create the most vivid of images in my mind and makes you long for more. In this area Winston has proved himself more than capable and well deserving of the praise heaped upon him. Though the rest of the story lacks this stellar imagery (largely because it all takes place in the same location), it's a magnificent start to a great tale.

What I love about this story, however, is the emotion put forth by Sunburst in her journals. We can see the struggles and pain of Twilight and Rainbow even when they aren't there (and they usually aren't), and Sunburst's discomfort and worry is palpable. The more the story goes on, the more you share their frustration. Sunburst becomes more than a character; Sunburst is an individual and a friend. That's not an easy connection to make, and I think Winston pulled it off wonderfully here.

I did find some issue with the story, though, most blatant being the dialogue. Sunburst doesn't do it often, but sometimes she writes whole conversations with some characters, such as with Twilight's personal student. In Winston's defense, the conversations are rather important and thus more likely to be well-remembered, but it still feels off to me. The good news: nobody will notice it. This seems to be the kind of thing only I ever notice.

I'm also pleased to note that one of my old issues with the story is now moot. Although it's never directly stated that Seashell takes place in the same AU as Born in Equestria (that I can recall), there are too many coincidences for me to think otherwise. Now that I know a bit more about the war mentioned in this story, I feel more comfortable about the things the story doesn't tell us. Basically, I have a much better context of the AU's background. Curiously, Winston claims he doesn't see these stories as being AU to the show, but I have to call him on that one; there's no way the dark and realistic world he's created is even remotely accurate to the world given to us in the show. At least, that's how I feel about it. Regardless, I think it's pretty clear that these stories are taking place in the same universe, which that gives much better context to the story as a whole, and for that I am pleased. If you deide to read this, you might also consider reading Born in Equestria. Perhaps even read it first.

The only other thing I'd note is that Winston still has trouble with his narrative around dialogues. He's still using telly lines at this point and sometimes repeats the dialogue's given information with said lines. It's not that big a deal at this point and in other areas Winston has certainly improved, but it caught my eye every time it happened.

All in all, my opinion of this story has only improved since the last time I read it. Winston has crafted a sweet and loving story that deserves all the attention it can get. I can't speak for any of his other stories (yet), but I assure you that this one is worth your time. Get to reading it ASAP.

Bookshelf: Why Haven't You Read These Yet?


There’s no question that this entire story is one big meta statement. Shipping Goggles, in a nutshell, shows how Rarity tends to see romantic relationships blossoming in every interaction she witnesses. Her shipping target for the day? Rainbow Pie. As Twilight and Fluttershy try to snap her out of another intense romantic fantasy, I couldn’t help smirking at Rarity’s defense of the situation.

There’s no question that I am a shipper. I’m not at Rarity’s level of craziness, but I do believe that with the right directing almost any pair can be made to work, even that between a rock and a tree. Having said that, I do more often see things from Twilight’s perspective and understand all the arguments made by the non-shipping heathens out there. As such, it was a lot of fun watching the arguments played out by Twilight and Rarity. From Twilight’s frustration and sense of disbelief to Rarity’s adamant confidence, I enjoyed the story from beginning to end.

And that conclusion? Saw it coming from a mile away, but it’s still awesome.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Growing Pains was a decent story, although I confess it barely made it into my ‘Pretty Good’ bookshelf, and I was interested in seeing if Karrakaz would resolve the unanswered questions and blatantly missing elements of the story in Sizeable Differences. The answer? Yes and no.

Sizeable Differences starts a couple weeks after where Growing Pains left off, with Twilight being a fully grown alicorn thanks to a magical mishap involving Sweetie Bell. When Celestia comes to investigate the issue, the visit awakens feelings the princess didn’t know she had and forces Twilight to face emotions she’s been keeping quiet about for a very long time. What follows is a tense two days of sexual frustration and self-discovery while the pair look for a way to reverse Twilight to her proper age – and apparently far less eye-catching appearance.

This story follows a slightly different approach to romances while constantly dancing dangerously close to the edge of failure. I took issue with a number of elements in it, but at the same time thoroughly enjoyed myself. For example, the story is a sequel to Growing Pains, in which Twilight’s interest in Celestia never comes up, but then it becomes an immediate top priority in Sizeable Differences, leaving a wide disparity that bothered me; at the same time I have to acknowledge that there was no reason for Twilight’s long-held interest in Celestia to come up in the former story, so I’m divided. For another, Twilight appears wise, calm and well in control of herself in Growing Pains, whereas in Sizeable Differences she is a nervous wreck; then I realize that the former largely came from Sweetie’s perspective, so Sweetie saw a mature role model, whereas this story is largely from Twilight’s and Celestia’s perspectives, so we get a more natural individual. Once again, I am divided.

All in all, I can’t decide if the characterization is off from one story to the next or if Karrakaz is really good at character insight and shifting perspectives. Providing the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume the latter and be impressed.

I’ll also take this opportunity to point out that I love the ‘matchmaker Rarity’ trope and think the author used her splendidly in this story. At the same time, I was aghast at the fact that Rarity had the gall to speak to Celestia and Luna as equals and presumed to lecture the both of them on the matter of relationships and love. While I acknowledge Rarity as a willful individual, it struck me as odd seeing her stare down both of Equestria’s diarchs in arguments that, in one case, turned into an outright shouting match. I can’t decide if it’s good characterization or unusual foolishness.

Things like this litter the entire story, making it both interesting and a little (and probably unintentionally) thought-provoking. Karrakaz is applying characterization to all involved in ways I never anticipated or considered normal, but at the same time I can find no argument against the interpretations without finding a decent counter-argument in favor of them.

Such is also the way with the story’s ‘romance.’ We spend all this time watching both Celestia and Twilight facing some serious frustration. It’s obvious to all involved that there’s something there and neither pony acts on it. I kept waiting for one of them to give in to their desires, which is surely the intent of the author. The ending left me feeling unsatisfied, and I found myself immediately looking to see if there is a sequel. There is not, and for that I am disappointed. Even so, I get why Karrakaz left things as is. Once more, I think one thing should have happened, but I can find no solid argument against the way things went.

Last but not least, this continuous dance of uncertainty even went into the writing style. For a lot of the story, Karrakaz does a decent job. Then there are the ever-present typos rearing their ugly heads just when you’ve re-immersed yourself, or the odd word choice that makes you pause, or the excessive narrative that pulls you directly out of the moment. I want to say Karrakaz did a great job, but every time I get that impression something comes along to take it down a peg.

Karrakaz is a writer whose methods are flawed… or not. Depending upon the subject matter and personal taste, you may chose to completely agree or disagree with his decisions. At the very least, it makes for some interesting reading. For everything good and bad, I enjoyed this story, and acknowledging that there may never be a sequel I nonetheless hope one will arise. The only thing I can say with certainty that I enjoyed this story a lot more than its predecessor.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good



Stories for Next Week:

Our Weary Daughter, Rest by HoofBitingActionOverload
Swan Lake by 314
That Wondrously Painful Feeling by SorenPixels (Requested by SorenPixels)
Subconscious Desires by LuminoZero (Re-Read)
An Affliction of the Heart: Volume Two by Anonymous Pegasus (Sequel to An Affliction of the Heart)


Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

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
Paul's Monday Reviews XIX
Paul's Monday Reviews XX
Paul's Monday Reviews XXI – "Final" Edition
Paul's Thursday Reviews The Ist!

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Comments ( 12 )

Given that I'm usually just tossing in a dollar or less, I tend to just bypass the rewards for those things. Just recommend that whatever you choose is something you are sure you can keep up with. Seen a lot of people get a bit too ambitious and have that bite them after a while. Though I suspect that won't be a problem for you, given that you are having some struggle thinking up any at all.

You could always use the time you're spending on this stuff to get a part-time job instead. Or course, everyone here would be disappointed, but you'd have money that way.

3300331
Uh, I don't think so. Considering I'm already working 70+ hours a week, I think another job would kill me.

3300731

Then ask for a raise.

3300779
I'm paid by commission only.

It's amazing how reviews always manage to make me feel like dirt, even if they're relatively positive ones. If you found any mistakes, I'd be grateful if you could point them out to me, as my pre-readers apparently didn't find them, and I am going to write a sequel at some point, though when is hard to say.

Another great set of reviews. Collaborators stands out as one of my favorite stories on this site.

Sorry to hear about your financial woes :fluttercry:
If I have the means to help at all, I will.

Aw! I'm sorry about the financial issues. I'm sure Houston isn't exactly a cheap place to live! As far as the Paetreon, I think it's a great idea! If you're struggling for a low-end reward, perhaps offer a chance to have a supporter's physical OC or name in the backround of a story. Obviously you couldn't do a whole lot of them, or else you'd flood your stories with black and red alicorns.

I read Seashell long ago, well prior to when I was doing reviews. I was of course planning to re-read it at some point, and imagine my surprise when Rayvinne shot me a message asking to read it and its sequel. By sheer coincidence, the timing of the request meant that I would re-read Seashell right after reading Born in Equestria, and that's some pretty good timing there.

:rainbowkiss:

I'd forgotten I had requested that! Definitely one of my favorite stories, despite the weird dialogue choices. (That threw me off too, you aren't the only one). I think it Winston improved that aspect of his writing quite a bit in Ghost Lights, although the ending of Ghost Lights felt pretty sudden and that really threw me off.

3301114
I wouldn't worry about it. I for one never fret over what's already been written. But, should I ever get to reading the story again, I'll be sure to give you more specific notes about the things I found.

Just to be:

Entirely pedantic, every story on my Baal Bunny account is related to the Writeoff. For reasons that are unlikely to become clear any time soon, all my non-Writeoff stuff gets posted under the name AugieDog.

"Collaborators" won 2nd place in the Title Drop contest of November, 2014, before you joined the group, I guess. Here's the original version if you'd like to compare and contrast: it's written in 3rd person instead of 1st, for instance, and lacks the final version's 4th act. Title Drop was unique in Writeoff history since we decided to try a whole week of writing time instead of the usual three days, and even then, I still couldn't quite get the story finished by the deadline... :twilightsheepish:

Mike

So let me get this straight: you work 70 hours a week and you only get paid by commission! Good lord! I used to get paid by commission but even then I still got minimum wage so I could At least lay my bills during the slow times.

That sucks. Not gonna lie.

IMHO the "pretty good" rating of "Shipping Goggles" means that you think a short comedy can only be "pretty good". It's perfect at what it does.

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