Thursday, 26 May 2022

Nimona by: ND Stevenson

 Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy 

Published: May 12, 2015 by: Harper Collins 

Pages: 272 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: abuse, experimentation, minor gore 

Shapeshifter Nimona is a spunky villain who vows to remain loyal to her partner, Lord Ballister Blackheart. Together, the duo vow to take down Blackheart's arch nemesis, Sir. Goldenloin, as well as all the supposed "heroes" of the Institute of Law Enforcement. Nimona and Blackheart are determined to set the record straight about the Institution, revealing them to be the true cause of evil in their community. However, as Blackheart begins to learn more about Nimona's past, he will soon realize that their quest for fighting evil with their own unique form of villainy will prove to be more complicated than he originally thought. It turns out, dealing with a shapeshifter is no easy feat. 

You'll see me reviewing a lot more comics and graphic novels as I work through reviewing all of the books I had to read in my superhero course. In this graphic novel, Nimona, we follow a spunky villain who can shapeshift into anything, though she mostly presents as a teenaged girl. Together with the unlikely partner of Ballister Blackheart, she seeks to reveal all of the evil that lurks in her medieval-style land. Nimona was an incredibly likable, bubbly character that I couldn't help but root for. Despite her being labelled as a villain, she represents more of a chaotic good side as she delights in taking down evil establishments that have grown a reputation for supposedly being good, though she knows otherwise. Blackheart's and Nimona's dynamics within the unique setting of the graphic novel was an absolute delight, making this a very quick and enjoyable read. 

First off, the setting that Stevenson was able to build was incredibly unique. The world in which Nimona lives in is this kind of fictional Medieval-esque world, though with a smattering of technological advancement used by the institution and scientific experimentation. The result is that the future and the past intertwine in this environment to create something I've never seen before. You have knights like Sir. Goldenloin working with scientific masterminds all in the shadow of a Medieval style castle. It was a really cool set-up and I think the lack of a specific time period and more of a drawing of inspiration from different aesthetics played very nicely with Nimona's shapeshifting abilities, as she was able adapt to different situations very well. 

I also think the artwork in the graphic novel was really well done. Stevenson plays with soft, light colours, a lot of pale reds, pinks, and yellows, but the graphic novel overall also has a very sketched out feel to it, almost like you can visibly see the sketches with pencil that went into the drawings of the characters. The pictures had a doodled vibe to it, which I loved, because I think it added to the personalization of the graphic novel to Stevenson's specific liking, and I could really see that they put a lot of effort into creating the characters and colour palettes to fit the overall vibes of the graphic, which is a bit spunky, but also whimsical and fun. 

I guess the one complaint I would have about the graphic novel was that the plot in my opinion, is a bit weak. It just didn't really captivate me like other comics and graphic novels have done in the past. It was an okay storyline, but definitely not my favourite. I think I took more of a liking to the characters, like seeing what animal of creature Nimona was going to turn into, rather than really focusing on the plot. That being said, it's a very easy graphic novel to get through, and has some very cute moments as well. 

Overall, this graphic novel has queer representation, Medieval castles, fun animals, and a spunky antihero at the centre of it all. I think it's a great addition to my graphic novel collection, and I definitely want to read more of what ND Stevenson puts out, particularly, I'm quite interested in watching their show, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Stevenson is also transmasculine and bigender, so a big plus is that you'll be reading from a diverse author if you pick this one up! 

Have you read Nimona? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 20 May 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Why I AM A Fan of Fan-Fiction

 A long, long time ago, in 2016, teenaged Emily wrote a blog post talking about how she didn't like fan-fiction. I don't know who hurt her at the time, but she wrote about how she didn't like it when writers continued with stories that were already finished and created alternate endings. Now in 2022, adult Emily has realized the errors of her ways and has now decided to revisit this topic and explain to you all why she IS a fan of fan-fiction. Ok, now it's time to stop writing in the third person. 

I credit Cee Arr @ Dora Reads and her Friday Fics Fix posts for getting me into this genre of writing. Every Friday, Cee posts a fan-fiction recommendation from a variety of fandoms. I mostly like the ones from the MCU, as it is one of the main fandoms that I am a part of and I love it when the writers put unconventional characters together, like for example, Tony Stark and Loki, which I had no idea before reading Cee's posts were a fan-fiction couple but I wholeheartedly support it. There is so much creativity in the fan-fiction world, and in a universe like the MCU that often falls into conventional tropes and predictable couples, this creativity is so needed. 

The problem with my previous post is that I categorized all fan-fiction under fan-fiction written about real people, like One Direction fan-fiction. However, this type of fan-fiction tends to be a bit cheesier, and if I'm being honest, a bit creepy, because folks are attempting to create a fictional life based on real people with very public lives. I don't want to shame anyone for consuming or writing that kind of content, but it definitely is not for me. However, those same limits do not exist for fictional characters. Steve Rogers doesn't really care if we write him to be in a romantic relationship with Bucky, because he doesn't exist. So, fan-fiction writers who write about fictional characters are able to build upon the unique characters and settings from these fictional worlds and put their own spin on it. These kinds of stories are able to dive deeper into characters who may not have been fully developed in canonical content, or who may have not been treated right by their canonical texts. Fan-fiction writers have the ability to redeem characters, to give them the love stories or friendships that they deserve. And to be honest, I find that kind of beautiful. 

Fan-fiction has given me the ability to revisit new stories about beloved characters, even when their canonical texts have decided that their stories are finished. I may never get a Falcon and the Winter Soldier season two, but I can continue to consume new content about Bucky and Sam to keep that world alive, and that makes me so happy! I can also read fan-fiction to keep me busy in-between seasons of a show, such as What We Do In the Shadows and The Umbrella Academy. Fan-fiction keeps worlds alive when the canon has halted them. I find that so cool. 

Lastly, as a creative writer myself, I cannot deny the opportunities that fan-fiction gives aspiring writers. While it may be incredibly difficult to get published with a major publishing house right away, posting on fan-fiction sites allows writers to have an outlet to get their creativity out, communicate with fellow writers, and even workshop their works and receive feedback. Creative writing classes and workshops are not accessible to everyone, and yet, we can do it for free and from the comfort of our own homes through fan-fiction sites. Whether these stories get published or not, they help to build a community of writers, young and old, who all appreciate the same thing. 

Overall, sixteen year-old Emily didn't know what she was talking about. Then again, she was sixteen, so we can cut her a bit of slack, but she's glad that she changed her mind about fan-fiction. I am so happy to be a part of this vibrant, diverse and unique community. And you should be too. 

Do you read fan-fiction? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: The Beginning by: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos

 Genre: young adult, graphic novel

Published: February 19, 2019 by: Marvel 

Pages: 272 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: bullying, racism, sexism 

Lunella Lafayette is a kid genius who plans to change the world. However, she also lives in fear of her Inhuman gene, which she vows to fix. Her plans to rid herself of the gene go awry when instead of fixing herself, she releases a prehistoric beast known as Devil Dinosaur into the modern world. Lunella takes it upon herself to use her new friend for good, and she and Devil Dinosaur team up in an unlikely duo, bodyswapping along the way to help Lunella cope with the struggles of growing up, while also dealing with some new dangers in her home city. 

I thought this was such a unique superhero text! My mother got me this graphic novel for Christmas, along with one of the original Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur comics from the 70's. This graphic novel breathes new life into the story by depicting a young Black girl with a passion for science, who knows she will do great things, but is also dealing with growing up amidst unique changes that none of her peers can relate to. I thought Lunella as a character was incredibly likable, and Devil Dinosaur was a hilarious companion as well. Overall, this graphic novel captivated me as a new reader of the Devil Dinosaur character, but I think it may also delight people familiar with the original story arc. 

I really appreciated how the writers wrote Lunella to be a kid, and they didn't try to make her sound more mature than she needed to be. Lunella is so intelligent, that much is certain. But, she also doesn't have the same life experiences as the adults around her, and the writers didn't make her sound like a wise old man in the body of a preteen. Instead, she makes mistakes. She laughs, she cries. She has normal, kid emotions. I thought this characterization was super important to see because I think it allows kids to connect with her character, and it also reveals to adults how important it is to give kids the ability to let their voices be heard. 

I think this book played with different symbols very well. For example, Lunella is dealing with this unique gene that she wants to rid herself of, that none of her peers have. Such gene makes her feel isolated, and uncomfortable. The writers were able to play with the Inhuman gene in a way that ties it to Lunella's journey through young adulthood. She's experiences all of these new life changes, coming into her superhero powers, failing to be heard from the adults around her, and at her core, she just wants to be perceived as normal. However, the authors reveal that there really is no such thing as "normal," and that all of her abnormalities are actually what make her brilliant. 

The writers definitely took the original story of Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur and decided to bring it into the 21st century by putting a diverse teen girl at the front of the story so that more young kids can relate to Lunella's experiences and feel connected to her character. I definitely found the story layout to be entertaining, witty, with some great comic relief throughout. There are also some cameos made by other Marvel characters which I very much appreciated, and I think folks will really like how the writers introduced Lunella into the greater MCU. I can see Marvel do a lot with her character, and I think she has been a welcome addition into this universe. 

Have you read Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Fall On Your Knees by: Anne-Marie MacDonald

 Genre: Historical Fiction 

Published: October 29, 2002 by: Pocket Books 

Pages: 672 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: rape, incest, infant death, pedophilia, child abuse, misogyny, homophobia, racism, alcoholism 

On Cape Breton Island in the early 1900's, the Piper family lives in a small home, while rumours, secrets, and lies plague their family. James Piper, the father of sisters Kathleen, Mercedes, Frances, and Lily, is abusive to both his daughters and his wife, Materia, who left her traditional Lebanese family to marry a white man. While the novel follows the Pipers through various stages of the 20th century, including World War One and the Jazz-era of New York City, more information is revealed about the family as the girls grow up amidst political and social change, along with dealing with an incredibly harmful father and a mother who ultimately tries to protect her daughters from his abuse. 

I did not know how to feel about this book. As you can tell from the plethora of content warnings, this book gets dark very quickly. While some may argue that content warnings spoil the plot of books, I knew that it was incredibly important for folks to know going into this book all of the potentially triggering things that MacDonald discusses. So, if you need to stop reading the review here, I respect that. This book may not be for you, and that's fine. It is extremely difficult to get through. However, at the same time, I did not hate it. I had to learn to reconcile the disturbing content with the plot structure and overall themes of the book, which I actually think were conveyed quite well. Sometimes, books can leave you with a range of emotions, and I definitely felt that within this book. 

I had to read this book for an English course I was a teaching assistant for, but the professor made us aware of the content warnings and didn't force students to read the book should they find the information triggering. I really was worried going into the book as these subjects tend to trigger my OCD a lot, however I was personally able to get through it and ended up appreciating the book for its commentary on social themes during early 1900's Canada. Again, this is not to say that anyone should just push through the book even if they're disturbed by it, this was just my personal experience. I had never read a book based in Cape Breton before, and I rarely read books set in the early 1900's pre and post war period, as I tend to find them a little heavy and boring. However, I think MacDonald did a great job at capturing the landscape of the Canadian Maritimes, mixed with the impact that the British Empire had on the culture in the area during the time period. She was also able to touch on topics of shell shock after the war, grieving lives lost during the war, and the political climate after the war. I found such topics to be very informative and they taught me more about Canadian history that I hadn't really known of before. 

At the core of the novel is the Piper daughters, Kathleen being the eldest, and Lily being the youngest. All of the girls have extremely tough childhoods, with middle child Frances rebelling at an early age, and Kathleen moving to New York to attempt to escape such hardships. I think each girl got equal development and I could definitely care for each of their stories. Even though none of the girls are perfect, I think MacDonald provides an interesting commentary on trauma and how it affected each of the girls to make the choices that they did. Ultimately, this is a family caught in a cycle of abuse, and MacDonald did well to indicate how trauma can carry through various lines in a family tree. 

Speaking of family trees, an important symbol in the book is the idea of family trees and ancestry, which I found to be an incredibly visceral but also symbolic way of learning more about the Piper family's lineage. Mercedes, the second eldest daughter, is obsessed with creating a family tree, though she is limited in her information because her family is so secretive. However, towards the end of the book, grave details about the family are revealed and the family tree ultimately becomes a very complicated way of showing the family's dark history. Still, I had never read a book where a family tree played such an important symbol, and I think it was used in an affective way. 

This book left me confused as to whether or not I liked it, was disturbed by it, or whether or not I could really root for a lot of the characters. I think it was a little bit of everything. I definitely needed to read some lighter material after finishing this book, but I do think that MacDonald handled the subject matter in a way that was sensitive to the real issues that plagued women, queer women, and women of colour during this time period. Despite the book taking place during the early 1900's, MacDonald represents the marginalized folks of this time period by writing of forgotten histories that have long been swept under the rug. Yes, it was a complicated, difficult read. But I am glad to have read it, and I think it prompted a lot of discussion in my class, which was good. 

Have you read Fall On Your Knees? Have you ever been confused by a book? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess