Tag Archives: humor

Review: Serpent’s Smile

(Sick writer was sick, I’m back now though!)

Serpent’s Smile is the latest in the Heaven’s Heathens series, and this time we’re staying close to home. Charged by her grandfather to investigate rumors of another gang moving something through Jasper around their town’s Founders Day celebration, most of the action is centered around Savannah as she takes lead on an unofficial (but really, this is Jasper, it’s pretty official just not on the books) investigation into the other gangs’ around town and their activity. Meanwhile, Gideon is still feeling out his place in the pack, and gets exasperated pretty quickly with the new meat syndrome going on. Savannah proves to be a welcome distraction to all that, and a helpful instigator if needed. Whoever thought it was a good idea to try and move product under the Heathen’s noses obviously didn’t know who they were messing with. But then again, we’re talking about a motorcycle club of werewolves–they rarely do.

Character-wise, I think we see a lot of serious growth in this book. While the backstory of the prior two books gives it more emotional impact on the reader, without it there is still a payout as far as actions taken and the characters changing (the impact is just maybe not as strong). Most of the main protagonist characters are familiar to us at this point, not only Savannah and Gideon but also Frankie and the rest of the foursome, Eberon and Corey, Violet, and several others. We even see Boone from the prior book again! It made me snicker. While the core of these characters remains the same, so it wouldn’t matter in which order I read the three books, because I did read them, some things hit me harder, like Frankie and her love triangle, and we finally get some payoff with Gideon and Savannah. (Only a little, because what’s a little lighter fluid on a building inferno of a slow burn relationship, right?)

The world building and the new characters sort of dove-tail together in this one. We’ve got some expanding upon the conflict between Savannah and her people and Ashley and her group, which is all well and good. And likely leading to some huge stand-off later, sort of like Captain America vs. Iron Man in the Civil War arcs. Right now, we’re at the petty bickering and claiming of territory stage…sort of like in the first Avengers film. I can see the beginning elements and conflicts though that are going to lead to hell later. We also filled in some of who is going to be standing on either side of that conflict…as well as a few who are probably going to stay firmly in the middle rather than get drawn in unless they can help it.

But you’ve also got new characters in the forms of the rival gangs that Savannah is poking her wolfy nose into. The Indian reservation gang is ruled out pretty quickly, but we get two new ones: an Italian run gang and then a primarily black gang. This could easily fall into the trap of racial stereotyping and obviously some other things that should be avoided, right? But many of those stereotypes exist for a reason, and as long as they aren’t the only aspect to the characters, and those aren’t the only POC in the book, I am okay with it. Ginny has a wide variety of characters in her cast, so that isn’t a problem, and there is just enough added to the rival gangs that I don’t think they are completely problematic as they could be. I’m hopeful that this isn’t the last we see of these characters, because if they are built up even more, it will continue to waylay those concerns.

That leads me to the plot, which is a bit different than usual. Yes, there’s still lots of the great character moments that help drive the narrative and speed the reading of the book, but the action isn’t in segments set in particular stages. Rather, there is more of a build and escalation to it, much like what you see in more of a normal book than an action movie, or maybe a combination of both since there are some moments that I could see being shot more like an action scene than it reads. Either way, the flow is just different enough that if you read all three together, it shakes you up a bit so it still feels fresh for you, and yet if you are reading out of order, it still fits with the other books in the series. (Also, I love a lot of the events in the final act, I spent a lot of time giggling.)

There is a little bit crime procedural, a little bit action movie to this one, and I like the change of pace. I also liked that we were given at least a little tidbit to make the long wait to Gideon and Savannah figuring themselves out easier for us to handle, and the fleshing out of upcoming confrontation and existing characters. While there are areas that could be taken wrong, I think they were handled okay and shouldn’t detract from the story at all, especially if further expansion on those characters happens.


Review: Boycotts and Barflies

…Okay, some background. I read this story when it was still a fanfic, specifically Twilight fanfic back when I thought the books were silly fluff reading for the age demographic that I still technically was in (a.k.a. before the train wreck that is the last book) and I loved it for what it was. Now that it’s original… Well, I’ll get to that. But now you know there’s history.

Bella Swan Grace Parks and her three friends are sick of endless dates with men who don’t meet their standards. Their solution? A boy boycott, for six weeks until the New Year. Well sort of, they are still allowed to flirt and go on group dates (so the bet is sort of pointless). It’s all in good fun, until Grace meets Edward Michael Andris and his friends meet hers. Surprisingly, the boys are also on a bet of their own–this time to meet “nice girls” and no longer allowed to date the girls they meet while bartending, casually referred to as barflies. Hijinks ensue as everyone remains determined to win the bet…or are they?

Okay, so romance novel: likelihood of some of this happening is non-existent. It’s merely a tool to set the two main protagonists against each other so they have conflicting goals. And between it and family interference, it actually works for…most of the book. She even had a really good idea for the bet exploding in everyone’s faces. The problem that no one caught in the fic’s transition to real publication, is that the ending just sort of…coasts. The conflict at the end where we find out not only what the boys have been up to but supposedly Grace’s two best friends just blows over in favor of a romantic night out. There’s no satisfaction with that. These girls lied to her, the boys lied to her… It shouldn’t end that easily, even if it was supposedly to help Grace realize her own worth.

Speaking of self worth, there are some good points and there are some bad points to characters in this book. On one hand, the dialogue and the banter between characters is hysterical. I’m not completely sold that the ages fit the dialogue, but I am willing to hand wave it because it is funny. And there is good chemistry between all of the characters, and delaying any actual sex scenes means it avoids the trap of being so heavy with them that it’s uncomfortable to read. I even appreciate the fact that the fact most singles can’t afford to live by themselves is acknowledged, so unlike most romance novels finding places to be together is a real challenge.

On the other hand… A lot of the issues with the Twilight characters carried over, even with the filing off of the serial numbers. The friends aren’t fleshed out enough or given enough flaws to make sense. The fact Grace is so insecure isn’t ever really explained well besides pretty fish in a small pond that got transplanted and hasn’t moved on yet. (BTW, this sort of insecurity is common in teenagers, but we tend to grow out of it in our twenties.) And maybe this is me knowing the source material like I do, but I don’t think the serial numbers were filed off enough. They tried, I give her credit for trying, but I could still see what it once was. Considering how she had set up the fic, it was hard to take it to original fiction and leave it still intact enough for her fanfiction audience while being separate enough that no one saw the original fandom unless they were looking.

The thing that I think irks me the most is the way the guys treat the girls they pick up at the bars and the way they are written. It’s painful and horrible disrespectful to women in general. It was sort of nudged at being inappropriate by the fact the girls were sort-of-sort-of-not barflies by definition and the guys were forced to re-evaluate it, but still. The term itself bothered me. As did the way these girls treated the boys they went out with. It’s one thing to find the date boring, but really, a dinner date is hard to be entertaining if you aren’t an entertainer by nature. One of the girls is admittedly shallow and won’t go on a date with someone who isn’t high on her personal taste list. Both sides were equally painful, at least from my standpoint, and really had the potential to cause a lot of hurt feelings and didn’t because the author didn’t want them to.

Much like its source material, Boycotts and Barflies ranks as a good lighthearted read that is amusing as long as you don’t look at it too closely. It suffers some from being prior fanfiction that transitioned over to original fanfiction, but it did so to hold on to its humor. The more you reread it, the more it starts to wear, so maybe save it as a once every three or four years thing.


Review: The Dresden Files–Side Jobs

Since I still haven’t gotten my hands on Cold Days, I thought I would read the short story anthology, since it was published before hand anyway. A collection of various short stories, most were written under the theme of a different anthology that Butcher participated in. Most were through the traditional point of view of Harry, but some strayed into some welcome new POVs, including Thomas and Murphy.

The stories were wildly different from each other. Some were rather humorous, such as Harry struggling with all the petty concerns of his day off which ended up being a normal day. Others were very serious, such as the novella about Murphy handling the loss of Dresden. And some hit my nerves, such as the Night of the Living Brews. But it was quite a collection, and there some good parts to it and some bad to it.

When it comes to plots, some were better and more complete than others. You could tell where Butcher was just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, and when he had something actually planned out. Really, of all of them, I only liked two for their plots. One was the one that hit my nerve, the Night of the Living Brews, surprisingly. While I didn’t like Harry making light of what was going to happen to the kidnapped bride, I did think structurally, it was well thought out and equally well executed. It also did what an anthology short story was supposed to do, which is give us glimpses of the characters and world going on behind the scenes, rather than throwing a ton of information at us. My other favorite was actually the one that Butcher wrote for our shared teacher, Professor Deborah Chester. It was also very well structured and I loved the message that was in it. And oh my gee, bet cop Murphy!

The rest were sort of eh. Some I felt like were beating dead horses, such as the one centered around Michael. Others were just far too busy for my tastes, with just too much going on. I get that he was trying to do that to poor Harry and Anastasia, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while Aftermath was great… It was too much. I could tell it was a novella, not a short story, and combined with the short blips, it just… It felt too long and too clunky. I thought it had a good point to it, I thought it was fairly well written. I just don’t think it belonged in this anthology. I think it needed either published separately or expanded upon or something. It was just awkward.

I love the depth these short stories helped add to characters. From grown Will and Georgia, to Thomas, to Murphy, to even Uriel. All of them really got a chance to shine in these books. Even Harry got a different take, since we got to see him how Thomas and Murphy saw him rather than just how he sees himself. Considering how important she becomes, I’m surprised we don’t get anything from Molly, or hell, even something from Mouse. (God, Mouse’s point of view, that would be humor.) As I said, I had a few of my old issues with female character portrayals again, but whether because he didn’t have the length or he realized it, it wasn’t so bad that I threw the book.

Some elements in the stories were very obviously from previous books. Things such as the vampire Courts, the Valkyries, even the crime scene in Chicago. He merely expanded upon them, which is awesome to see. I love all the little bits that never make it into books but the author does think about. But all that being said, I think there were issues when he was introducing new things. I don’t remember the Oblivion Wars even being mentioned, and while seeing Thomas do things on his own was cool, I just had issues connecting because I’m going, “What the heck were these and why can’t I remember them? Irony!” It eventually came up again (sort of) with the psychic link via beer goddess, but it was still clunky in my head. But that’s my opinion.

Overall, I liked these a lot. I loved the little glimpses into the relationships between characters that they offered, and how easy they were to read and track through. Butcher didn’t get tangled up in his own ideas nearly as much, and for me, it made a drastic improvement. Some spots were a little prickly, and I feel like the tone gave whiplash with the way the stories were arranged, but that can easily be placed on when they were published in the writing process and just not thinking about how one story will ready after having followed another. I kinda hope he does some more of these!