Happy New Year! In what is surely an auspicious start to the year, I'm kicking it off with... a missed post and another mini-review set. Hey, at least I got some reading/reviewing done. Under the circumstances, I'm feeling pretty good about that. And hey: it's tradition to immediately faceplant on your resolutions, no? So if anything, I'm overachieving.
Mister Lonely Heart, by Eskerata
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After the reformed changelings' integration into Equestria, Twilight visits a grievance counselor--a changeling who specializes in mimicking other ponies for therapeutic purposes--in order to say some things she doesn't know who else to tell.
A few thoughts: I liked the idea of this; friendly changelings using their shape-changing abilities to give ponies emotional support seems to be under-explored outside of porn (well, for a certain value of "emotional support"). But the writing fell flat. That the dialogue is trite and artificial for a good chunk of the fic is a plot point, but that doesn't explain why it's written in almost the same stilted tone the rest of the time, too. And the counselor's narrative voice is just as telly as his expository conversation. I suppose it's fair to admit that the central conflict, being EqG-based, didn't resonate for me as much as it might for readers with some affection for the movies, but my issues with this story were more with construction than with content.
Recommendation: This is a good choice for readers who can let themselves be carried by a concept; the notion of a grievance counselor and what s/he does is an interesting one, at least as envisioned here. But those put off by expository writing will want to give it a pass.
Rarity and the Rhinoceros, by Vertigo22
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A bit less than 2,000 words of more or less what you think of when you see the Random and Comedy tags sitting side-by-side.
A few thoughts: The humor here is based on character destruction and Rhinoceri being generally awful pets. Honestly, I can't think of a lot more to say about it; it's short, slightly crude, and without greater purpose than to be silly, even (especially) at the expense of making sense or communicating anything other than a sense of the absurd.
Recommendation: If you're just looking for some "wacky" humor, it's here. If you're looking for literally anything else, it's not.
The Apple and the Fox, by Tundara
Zero-ish spoiler summary: In order to become a true shamaness, Apple Bloom chases a kitsune through Ponyville.
A few thoughts: Although the author says, "While a Myths and Birthrights side-story, no knowledge of the setting is required," I found my enjoyment very much limited by my lack of familiarity with the setting. From the assumption of Apple Bloom's interests and development as a character to the existence of a kitsune itself, there was a lot here for someone coming in dry to take on faith. And as a result, any appreciation I had for the story was purely academic; so far as I could tell, the writing quality was fine, and if I knew anything about "spirit chases" (enough, at least, to know what was on the line for that fox--whether this was a race it wanted to lose, or if it just got consigned to a life of pokemon-esque cockfightery, or what) or had an investment in AB's success or failure going in, I might well have found it fulfilling. But as it was... I didn't.
Recommendation: If you've got some grounding in Myths and Birthrights, and are interested in a little back(?)story about AB, I imagine this is perfectly enjoyable. I don't recommend it as an introduction or stand-alone, however.