Learning To Communicate: A Review of Eclipse the Moon, by Jessie Mihalik

            Just as communication is the key to any healthy relationship, communication is also a key element of any truly enjoyable romance novel.  If the characters involved do not know how to communicate with each other, or part of the plot does not involve them learning, then the romance may seem forced or unbelievable.  So many stories have been brought low by pairing up characters without putting in the work to make their chemistry obvious to the audience.  Part of the fun of a romance story is watching the characters revolve around each other, figuring each other out, learning the telltale outward signs of their emotional states.  In these kinds of plots, miscommunications are believable, and tense, plot hooks.  Without the honest effort to learn, that lack of communication could result in disastrous effects; readers may think the characters stupid, rather than possessing of realistic emotions.

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Throwback Review: Project Nemesis, by Jeremy Robinson

            Kaiju, or giant monsters, refers to more than just the enormous beasts and creatures we see in movies and fiction.  Rather, kaiju has become a genre all its own.  From classics like the Godzilla films to modern blockbusters like Pacific Rim, kaiju have captured audiences’ imaginations for decades.  While we normally consider the original 1954 film, Gojira, to be the first kaiju movie, featuring the original appearance of Godzilla, kaiju fiction actually predates that.  However, Gojira permanently changed the landscape of the genre by using monsters to address human concerns.  Instead of a creature feature or B-movie thriller, 1954’s Gojira was about the horrors of the atomic age and the aftermath of the United State’s nuclear weapons tests.  From then on, the best kaiju stories blended the action with engaging themes, a trend which continues to the modern day.

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Metamorphosis: A Review of Wrath Goddess Sing, by Maya Deane

            We all know the story of the Iliad, the ancient Greek poem detailing the story of Achilles during the time of the decade long Trojan War.  Helen, the queen of Sparta and the most beautify woman in the world, was taken to Troy by Paris, sparking a conflict between the Achaeans and the Trojans that would see many heroes dead by the finale.  Considered to have been written down for the first time in the 8th century BCE, commonly attributed to the legendary author known as Homer, whom the Odyssey is also attributed.  In truth, the story is likely much older than his written version, and would have had any different versions in accordance with the oral tradition of storytelling.  The Iliad has the remarkable distinction of being truly timeless, with it still being commonly read today and even taught in classes around the world.  This ever-lasting appeal has also led to constant re-imaginings and appropriations of the story, characters, and themes.  From feminist translations to complete overhauls, every storyteller has their own idea on what makes the story of Achilles great. 

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The Old Ways: A Review of Never the Wind, by Francesco Dimitri

            Few stories are more timeless than the coming-of-age tale, a genre which never ceases to be popular in the public consciousness.  These stories tend to feature younger characters, either pre-teens or teenagers, and follow them as they learn life lessons and mature throughout the course of the story.  It is not so much about becoming an adult by the end of the story as it is stories about the changes we all experience when we are younger.  There comes a time in everyone’s life when they gain a certain understanding about the world, commonly referred to as the loss of innocence. Children learning that their parents are not infallible, or teenagers learning that the world is vastly more complicated than they ever believed.  Many times, coming-of-age tales show the main character developing their personality and becoming their own person, outside of the projections of their parents.  While these stories may feature young characters, they are not normally considered YA fiction, as the target audience tends to be adults rather than other teenagers.  There is an element of nostalgia in reading a coming-of-age story, and thinking back to when you were the age of the characters.

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The Gauntlet: A Review of Tear Down the Throne, by Jennifer Estep

            Romance is one of the oldest genres in the literary world, and remains one of the largest areas of publication, with multitudes of readers and books being published every year.  Romance is one of those genres that can be combined with so many others, resulting in some extremely creative and unique styles of writing.  While many books include romance, to call a book a romance is something completely different.  There may be a plot, but the main tension is a result of the story revolves around the love lives of the main characters.  By blending romance with a setting theme, such as fantasy, authors can create some fun combinations, brainstorming new romantic traditions and customs for their characters to engage with.  There is also something inherently romantic about using a fantasy setting, especially one with real world influences throughout history.  The idea of star-crossed lovers is extraordinarily popular, and what easier way to set that up than by pairing royalty from two enemy kingdoms?

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Inheritance: A Review of Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor, by Xiran Jay Zhao

            Aside from genre, fiction can be separated into categories based on the age group of the target audience. YA, or young adult, is one of the most well-known, as that classification encompasses some of the most popular books and series within the last few decades.  The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, The Hunger Games, and more cemented themselves into the public consciousness, attracting readers well outside of their target.  Less well known is the classification of stories aimed at slightly younger readers, such as preteens, known as middle grade fiction.  Middle grade stories tend to have a different writing style than their YA cousins, although the plots may share commonalities.  However, while they definitely aim for a younger audience than YA fiction or books meant for adults, middle grade fiction does not underestimate its readers.  Rather, the best middle grade writers understand that children are far more intelligent and emotionally aware than adults would assume.

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Perseverance: A Review of Destiny of the Dead, by Kel Kade

            Apocalyptic fiction can be a tricky story format to get right, and it usually falls into two broad categories.  Post-apocalypse stories are actually very common, for a variety of reasons, where the apocalypse has already happened and we spend our time following characters surviving or rebuilding after the fact.  The tone of these can range wildly, from hopeless in the face of a terrible world, or hopeful as rebuilding is underway.  Conversely, there are also stop-the-apocalypse stories, where the heroes of the story work to avoid the end of the world, either preventing or reversing the oncoming apocalypse.  Much rarer are stories where the apocalypse seems inevitable, but has not happened yet.  Where readers, and sometimes even the characters, know that the end of the world is going to happen, but the characters struggle anyways.  Conventional wisdom tells us that if a character wants something enough, then the audience will want them to achieve it.  But how does a story avoid disappointing readers when it seems like the protagonists will not get what they want?

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Perpetuation of Trauma: A Review of The Mirror Man, by Lars Kepler

            Every reader wants to get hooked on a good series, where the author continuously writes new entries featuring favorite characters and new stories within the same framework.  While the trilogy is very common in that regard, it is also common for authors to keep a series progresses for many more than three books.  Something like The Wheel of Time has more than fourteen entries, while The Dresden Files received its seventeenth entry in 2020.  However, with each new book in a long series, there is an ever-growing risk that the author takes.  How do they keep their readers interested, while also providing the same types of stories that drew them in the first place?  Things need to change from book to book to keep the story and characters moving and developing, but change things too much and you may lose readers.  But if an author does not take any risks at all, they also run the risk of losing readers as they will not see a reason to read new entries.  There is a careful balancing act that authors have to consider, balancing the storytelling with the business of selling books, but readers will love the ones who manage it, even if they are unaware of the work going into each new book.

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The Pull and the Take: A Review of Age of Ash, by Daniel Abraham

            Fantasy as a genre is incredibly varied, so much so that it is more accurate to say that fantasy has expanded well beyond a simple genre into a overarching category of fiction.  Fantasy can be combined with any other genre in existence seamlessly, and in fact often is.  Similar to science-fiction, calling something fantasy tells a reader very little about what to expect.  To help readers understand what they’re getting into, it is becoming more common to separate works of fantasy into two general categories: high fantasy and low fantasy.  High fantasy is the more traditional approach, with magic being very common within the setting and multiple fantastical creatures.  Low fantasy shifts that focus.  Magic may exist, but it is either rare or not understood.  The main characters are commoners rather than nobles or chosen ones.  By shifting the focus down, low fantasy can appear gritter or more “realistic” in some ways, while drastically changing what is important to the story from high fantasy.

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Caffeinated Comfort: A Review of Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree

            Not every story needs to have high stakes, or even high tension, to keep the plot interesting and the characters engaging.  There are entire genres of fiction dedicated to the small things in life, detailing the daily lives of people from all walks of life.  The most well-known of these genres is known as slice-of-life, which itself covers a wide range of storytelling methods.  More recently, there has been a new variation of this type of storytelling, simply known as “cozy.”  It started with video games that prioritized creating a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for the player, and has since moved into books as well.  The hallmark of cozy is to make the reader feel safe and secure in the setting and among the characters.  A sort of comfort food of fiction.  The book’s setting, characters, and plot points all work in concert to create a special kind of reading experience, where there is still conflict, but the conflicts resolve in such a way that the main characters are allowed to be happy.  For obvious reasons, cozy fiction also draws a lot of queer readers, finding accepting and loving environments within a book’s pages.

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