Thursday, 24 February 2022

Winter Counts by: David Heska Wanbli Weiden

 Genre: Mystery, Thriller 

Published: August 25, 2020 by: Ecco 

Pages: 336 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: drug use, heroin overdose, discussion of alcohol addiction, discussion of violence against children, gun violence, blood 

Virgil Wounded Horse lives on Rosebud Indian Reservation with his nephew Nathan, who he adopted after his sister died. After struggling with alcoholism, Virgil is now completely sober, and dedicates his life to being a vigilante on the reservation. When the police or tribal council fail to deliver justice, Virgil steps in to set things right. However, when drugs make their way onto the reservation, Virgil faces a new kind of threat, as the drugs have found Nathan, the boy who Virgil has dedicated his new life to protect. Together with his ex-girlfriend Marie, Virgil travels around the reservation and beyond to find the source of the drugs and shut it down, but this task will prove dangerous as Virgil sinks deeper into the investigation. 

I am very picky with thrillers. Sometimes thrillers do not grip me like they should, and the crimes and aftermath end up going way over my head. Admittedly, sometimes I find thrillers extremely boring. So, I wasn't sure what to expect when reading this book. I was excited for the Indigenous representation, specifically Lakota representation, as I don't read many books that centre around the Lakota nation. David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a member of the Lakota nation (thanks Cee @ Dora Reads for pointing this out!), so a big plus for the novel is the #OwnVoices representation. I was immediately engrossed into the story, and I thought that David Heska Wanbli Weiden did a fantastic job at building up the threat and investigation, while also weaving through the story topics of Lakota identity, customs, and traditions. 

Virgil is an incredibly complex character. He was previously addicted to alcohol, but now he is sober and his only mission is to protect his nephew Nathan, as well as anybody on the reservation who needs someone to advocate for them. While Virgil's methods of resolution may be unorthodox, his role as vigilante plays such an important part in the building up of the crime and Virgil's personal connection to it. Not only do the drugs affect Virgil because Nathan is involved, but he also has a strong care for children and teens, and it is evident that he pushes hard to solve this crime because he wants better futures for the kids on the reservation than perhaps the early adult years that he had. I rarely ever read vigilante characters, but I found myself rooting for Virgil every step of the way and I could completely understand that his heart was in the right place. 

I also really loved Virgil's ex-girlfriend, Marie Short Bear. Marie was fascinating because she is somewhat caught in between worlds. She is dedicated to the reservation and making the lives of the people on it better, despite them not always being supportive of her. However, she also has the opportunity to leave the reservation and go to medical school, and she struggles with making the decision to leave, or staying and finishing the work that she started. Marie was empathetic, intelligent, and a great foil to Virgil's character. I thought that the two complimented each other very well. While Virgil likes to seek reparations using physical force, Marie prefers to use her mind to come up with a solution. Both methods work for each character, and the book doesn't try to tell the reader why Marie is a better character than Virgil or vice versa. Marie teaches Virgil to be more patient, and Virgil teaches Marie that there are many causes worth fighting for. They were a fantastic pairing, and their dynamic was great to see. 

The story was well-balanced, with a great mix of information surrounding the crime, climatic action, and falling action/resolutions. Throughout the story we see Virgil reconciling with his Lakota identity, something that he hasn't always embraced, and there was also interesting information about Lakota customs for readers who may be unfamiliar. I cannot recommend this book enough if you are into thrillers, as I think it offers something different into the thriller genre, with its diverse cast of characters and integration of the Lakota nation from a Lakota author.   

Have you read Winter Counts? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: How Do You Read Comics/Graphic Novels?

In the spirit of my superhero course and all the graphic novels and comics I have been reading recently, I wanted to talk a bit about my reading practices. Something that I've observed when I read comics or graphic novels is that I always pay attention to the text first, as opposed to art. I find this detail interesting, because the main component of graphic fiction is that there are graphics attached to the text. If anything, the text is not intended to be the focal point of where your eye goes, as the art is much bigger, much brighter, and would typically catch someone's attention. So I wonder, why is it that when I read graphic fiction, my eyes immediately go to the text? Why is it that sometimes, I forget that there's art at all? 

I want to make clear that I love graphic fiction dearly. I read graphic fiction because I find that it's really easy for me to absorb and be entertained by, and usually I pick graphic fiction that aligns with my interests such as Marvel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, just because I don't tend to focus on the graphics, doesn't mean that I hate the genre. I think it just means that I read the genre in a different way than other people might. I can't exactly say why my eye immediately goes to the speech bubbles before the art, other then maybe conclude that it has to do with what I'm used to. I only got into graphic fiction within the past couple of years, but I've loved fiction books for years. So perhaps, I gravitate towards the words in a graphic novel because I was trained to look at words before I look at pictures. Or, perhaps this all says something more about learning practices. 

I was telling a seminar that I teach that when they plan out their essays for the course, they should use whatever methods they learn best in to help them. So if they're a visual learner, they should draw out a mind map. If they're an oral learner, they should speak their essay out loud and record themselves. If they learn best by reading, they should just start writing. I align myself most with reading, as sometimes graphics don't allow me to grasp what I'm supposed to understand, and orality doesn't engage me. So I wonder if the way I learn best has allowed for me to almost gloss over the graphics in a comic book and instead trust the text to tell me all that I need to know about the story, because I'm confident that the text will carry me through. Now, this isn't always the case, as graphic fiction relies heavily on the graphics. Since the text is not really the focal point of the comic, there isn't always enough description in the text to build the world of the story. The pictures do crucial work in establishing setting, that the text cannot always do. However, no matter what, I will always see the text first. It's just an odd way of how my brain works. 

Usually how I read graphic fiction is by reading all of the text, and then going back and looking at the pictures. I know that may sound really odd, but nothing about how I read makes sense to me either. But either way, I do think this opens up an interesting conversation about learning methods and how people practice the great art of reading. However you read graphic fiction, it is a valuable genre, and I'd love to know more about how you approach it. 

How do you read graphic fiction? What kind of learner are you? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Jonny Appleseed by: Joshua Whitehead

Genre: Fiction, LGBT 

Published: May 15, 2018 by: Arsenal Pulp Press

Pages: 224 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: references to residential schools and inter-generational trauma, addiction, homophobia, fetishization of Indigenous people, abuse 

While on the way to his stepfather's funeral, Jonny Appleseed, a Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer young adult recounts his childhood and all that led him to where he is today. Jonny flashes back to when he first realized he was gay, his first love, and a life influenced by inter-generational trauma that has led him to fetishize himself on dating websites in order to make money. Jonny left the reservation for the big city, but his return will bring back past memories and reignite the respect he has for his beloved grandmother, his kokum. 

I've had to read this book a couple of times: once for pleasure and the other time for school. I found that when I had to read the book for school and I was able to talk through my feelings of the book with other students, it resonated with me even more. Reading from Indigenous queer authors, or Indigiqueer authors as Whitehead puts it, isn't something that I always dive into. However, Jonny's story touches on so many topics that I couldn't help but find some sort of connection to it. It was an emotional coming of age story, and I can see myself recommending this book for years to come. 

To start, the plot in and of itself is quite simple. The book takes place on Jonny's journey back to the reservation, and this is a time of self reflection for him as he recounts what his childhood was like. There isn't much present action that takes place, as the book has a significant amount of flashbacks. But in Jonny's flashbacks, his present self becomes all the more clear to the reader. Whitehead does a really cool thing where he uses Jonny's past to talk about Jonny's present, and the transition of time is made really clear in how Jonny's relationship with his friends and family changes. 

Something that Whitehead talks a lot about in interviews is how Jonny as a character can be reflected through his own life experiences. While the book is by no means autobiographical, Whitehead's own identity of an Indigiqueer person is certainly influenced in Jonny's way of life. Own voices novels are so important, especially when themes of coming of age are so prevalent. I couldn't help but see the authenticity of Jonny's life experiences and how Whitehead took care to share an important, emotional and authentic story. 

This book doesn't have a main action take place, or a main problem that the main character has to solve. However, it becomes clear to the reader that Jonny is at a transformative moment in his life, in which he needs to reflect on the person he has become and who he wants to be. A lot of the topics in this book are hard, because they hit on inter-generational trauma that many Indigenous teens and young adults know too well. Jonny's quest to simply survive has impacted how he feels about his own Indigenous identity. It's not an easy read despite the book being easy to follow in structure, so please do take care to read the content warnings. However, I think this book is a staple for those who want to read more books by queer authors, and especially those who want to see how gender and sexuality is explored in Indigenous communities. 

Have you read Jonny Appleseed? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Month in Review: January


Now that I've returned to blogging after a hiatus, it is also now time to return to monthly wrap-ups! I really missed these posts, so here's what I got up to in January, and how my 2022 is shaping up to be: 

What I Read: 

I've set my Goodreads goal for 100 books, which I'm fairly confident I'll make judging by my reading list for school and the types of books I'll be reading. I'm already on track, and some of the books I read in January include: 

Monstress: Volume 1 by: Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda: 2/5 stars 

Moon-Girl and Devil Dinosaur by: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos: 5/5 stars 

Our Violent Ends by: Chloe Gong: 5/5 stars 

Cyclopedia Exotica by: Arminder Dhaliwal: 4/5 stars 

Squad by: Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle: 5/5 stars 

Fall On Your Knees by: Ann-Marie MacDonald: 3/5 stars 

Favourite Book of the Month: You may be able to tell that I read a heavy assortment of graphic novels this month. This is partly why I'm able to keep on track of my goal. Graphic novels are faster for me to get through and I've been absolutely loving them. Some of these books I had to read for a superhero course I'm in, and some were just for fun. But my favourite has to be Moon-Girl and Devil Dinosaur. I got it as a Christmas present and it is such a fun series. It's diverse, heart-warming, and has some great cameos from other Marvel superheroes. 

What I Blogged: 

Like I said, I've returned to blogging weekly and my new routine is shaping up very well. I'm hoping that I won't have to stop any time soon because I really did miss it. My favourite post of the month would have to be when I wrote about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Abuses of Power. There are content warnings attached to this post, but it felt great to get out my frustrations towards the creator of one of my favourite tv shows. 

Some of My Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Cee talks about censorship in Of Monsters, Mice and Men 

Roberta shares Her Most Fulfilling Author/Blogger Interactions 

Claire says that 2022 is Ours 

Sabrina is Reading Outside Her Comfort Zone 

Life Stuff: 

It's a new term, and I've got an easier course load than last term, which is good. As I mentioned before, I'm taking a superhero course, which has definitely fueled my graphic novel collection. I'm hopeful that this term will bring about some new reading favourites, but of course, I also expect things to get busy as we near the end. 

Other than school stuff, I'm really looking forward to the Olympics this month! Today is the opening ceremony, and I've been waiting so patiently for things to kick off. My family are very much into the Olympics, and I am extremely passionate about snowboarding in particular. I'll be cheering on Canada and hoping that everyone has a safe and successful time in Beijing! 

That was my January. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess