Tag Archives: racism

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.

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Review: The Help

This is my big guilty pleasure movie. It’s one of two that I can never turn away from whenever it comes up. I highly recommend it, and I decided to write a post about why.

The Help, based off of the book by the same name, is a movie set during the Civil Rights Era, where the South was rampant with racism, and the biggest offender was the person people would least expect: the housewife.¬†Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is the daughter of such a culture, but is horrified by it. Aibileen Clark is a grief-stricken maid who works to keep some semblance of a life after she lost her son, working for a woman suffering from postpartum depression who is unable to acknowledge her own daughter. Minny Jackson is an outspoken maid who has the unfortunate problem of working for the most racist woman in town, as well as suffering from an abusive husband. Skeeter ends up being the tool for several black maids to express the awful conditions of the working help in the South as conditions continue to plummet, as well as the stories of occasional kindness from their employers, by helping them publish a book telling their stories anonymously.

The characters of this movie are what make it, as well as the actresses who play them. I am well known for quoting Minny’s line about the people around her giving her heart palpitations with their actions, and she is by far my favorite character. (Though Skeeter has her moments of awesome). And through both those women’s sass, we have Aibileen as this stalwart figure of seriousness, which is really her being the one who has been impacted the hardest by the racism of the times. She’s lost her son to it, and is alone in this world as a result except for Minny’s friendship. But through the course of the story, these three women discover more about themselves through their actions and through sharing their stories with each other and the rest of the country. It allows them to grow and change their lives, though whether for the better is from a matter of perspective in some cases.

As for setting, the scenery and costumes are to die for. Of course, I love the fashion of that era, so the entire movie makes me squee. I also love the little touches that they do to help establish the setting. Things like the black and white TV during the coverage of various Civil Right movements, Skeeter bringing up Jackie Kennedy and how she has never looked more regal, the uniforms for the maids and for the waiter at the local diner. The diner period, which I am also a sucker for. It was also right there that this was so the South, from deviled eggs with paprika, the love of pie and fried chicken (we take that very seriously around here), that the accents were really sort of secondary for me. I do like that everyone had a drawl of some sort, but they also varied it some, which makes sense because it varies a little bit from person to person in my experience. (I don’t have one until I’m either being super sarcastic or super angry, for example, and mine has a definite Texas lilt to it.)

The part of the story that does sort of irk me is that the story is meant to be about the lives of these black maids, about what they had to live and go through and their way of taking some of that agency back. What irks me is that we had to have this teenage white girl (I say teenage, I’ll be kinder, she’s a recent college graduate) be their mouth piece. Yes, she gives them the advance from the books, but she’s the one who builds up her career off of it. This could just be the time of the book’s fictional writing. If Aibileen had written it, she may not have been able to publish it. We also wouldn’t have had Constantine’s story. But I think it may have made for a stronger book and given the maids even more agency over their story. It also would have given Aibileen an even stronger ending instead of the rather ambiguous one that she currently has.

Overall, this is always going to be one of my favorite movies. I love the relationships these women have with each other, the way they tell stories, the fact that even though there are some romantic subplots, it is a majority female cast that instead talks about life, about the issues of their times, about their families and their friends and their work. It isn’t another rom-com or Bond girl set-up, and at the same time it has tension and forward momentum. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it for a Saturday or Sunday binge watch. I promise you won’t regret it.