So I'm unemployed right now and trying to figure out how to give my life meaning, and I thought, hey, I could read a lot of paranormal fantasy novels!
No, I'm kidding. I was doing that part anyway. But I did figure that I could review a lot of paranormal fantasy novels, and that would be fun for me, and possibly for some people who are not me as well. Also, it's a good writing exercise while I'm trying to bail through to the end of my own novel (65,000 words and past the halfway mark! Woo!), because it forces me to be really clear about what I want to embrace out of this genre and what I want to violently reject.
I've renamed this journal Paranormal for the People, which right off hopefully gives you a sense of what my biases are as a reviewer. I'm looking for a good story, obviously, yes, but I'm also looking at the paranormal/urban fantasy genre in a slightly more specific way, so my reviews will tend to zone in on these things:
1. DIVERSITY. This is a genre that's dominated by stories about straight white women, occasionally livened up by stories about straight white men. This is ridiculous. It's straight up indefensible at this point in time. I know I'm not the only person who feels this way, so I want to highlight those books I do find that feel a little more representative of realityworld, where lots of interesting people live. Maybe even you!
2. SEXUAL POLITICS. This genre manages to combine some of the most straight-up tawdry softcore (which I say with love, people, with love) with some incredibly dubious ideas about female sexuality. The books can fascinated with kink and physical attractiveness, yet at the same time have some amazingly sketchy rape-culture/dubcon tropes woven all through them and be obsessed with policing the lines between Purity and Slutiness. It's also full of kickass women having weird breakdowns about which supernatural boy finds them hot. I like books that integrate sexuality into the spectrum of things that influence a person, but I have a very low threshold for anti-sex nonsense, enforced heterosexuality and monogamy, and finding convenient magical ways to make your every kink integral to the plot (Dear Authors: Sometimes I just don't need to know that much about you.) Basically, can we be adults about love and sex?
3. DEPTH OF THE CHARACTER BENCH. I'm very deeply influenced by tv and roleplaying games, so one thing that I'm constantly looking for is a *cast* of characters, all of them contributing something valuable to the story, because honestly, aren't we over this Lone Wolf Hero business by now? For a genre that prides itself on worldbuilding, why aren't these worlds full of interesting people? Why is it always about Princess Special Snowflake, her boyfriend, her antagonist, her boyfriend/antagonist, and that one sassy best friend who's in two chapters and probably dies by the end? Nobody lives like that. Real people live in communities, and if I don't feel like any of the significant characters in your novel could just as well have been the POV characters of their own novels, then I honestly just don't buy your worldbuilding, because what you've built is a Princess Special Snowflake theme park, not a world.
4. SKILLS OTHER THAN SMASHING. I love action scenes. I really do. I'm not asking people to write a Wonder Boys AU where they're wizards. (Although I actually am now. How awesome would that be?) Bring on the boss fights, that's awesome. But I am interested in finding books where the character isn't presented as interesting primarily because she breaks things better than anyone else around her. I really want some creativity in how stuff gets resolved, as well as more emphasis on what kind of a person the character is during the 150 pages where she's not actively smiting.
So we'll see how this goes for a while -- I'm aiming at one actual book review per week, plus maybe some other stuff for fun, some links to geek culture and/or fannish activity where it seems relevant. I'll also be putting up some updates on my novel, for those of you who find my interests relevant to yours and/or want to know if I think I can do any better, smartass.