ARC Reviews

The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories edited by Kate Ashwin

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Iron Circus Comics in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (April 5th, 2022)

My heart, my freaking heart is so damn full right now! There aren’t enough words to convey how happy I am to have an arc of this graphic novel anthology right now. I ended up missing out on requesting an arc for this anthology and had it wish-listed, and as fate would have it, while on vacation I was surprised with this sliding into my library. If you haven’t heard me talk about how emotional I get every time I get a book by a Native/Indigenous author/s then here it is right here. I’m so emotional, so so grateful, and very privileged to have this right now.

As an Apache reader, book blogger, this anthology means the world to me just as all literature I receive by Native/Indigenous authors. If you would have told a very young, child Malli that I would be able to see more Indigenous people in literature that isn’t from a stereotypical lens and actually by Indigenous authors, I probably would have laughed and then broke down into sobs. Growing up as an urban Native and as someone who has spent years reconnecting with one’s heritage; you end up missing a lot of things, you can’t always go to PowWow, your elders aren’t always available to teach you, you have to devote large portions of time to learning your dialect (in my case, Eastern and Western Apache), and so on. So receiving this anthology, seeing stories I recognize, having heard these stories from my elders or others of my own age, it just means everything to me. It is everything.

As always for my anthology reviews, I have mini reviews for all the short stories where I talk about my thoughts, feelings, and include content/trigger warnings.

As It Was Told To Me by Elijah Forbes (Odawa) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a story about creation and The Creator, and about life. This story had me super emotional because I couldn’t help thinking about a similar story I was told from my Auntie. It got me really emotional and soft thinking about her and when she told me about how creation was a sort of awakening, how Creator created other gods/deities, and the way everything came into being. Reading this story, I just felt instant connection and just reminded that even if the story is slightly different, all tribes are connected to each other because of a story like this one.

“They were the most sacred being, feminine and masculine. Not in parts, but both at the same time.”

Chokfi by Jordaan Arledge & Mekala Nava (Chickasaw) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story is about how animals became vain because of their coats. Chokfi being a very proud rabbit, became curious after hearing about Otter’s coat being the most beautiful and his plot to make Otter’s coat his. I think the Trickster stories are always my favorite stories to hear from my elders because each story is different depending on the tribe. For example, a lot of Apache trickster stories revolve around coyote (which I feel in modern day is used, along with foxes, as trickster icons). Look, I’m not saying I’m biased, but this was one of my favorite stories from this anthology.

White Horse Plains by Rhael McGregor (Métis/Cree) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief mentions of starvation, brief scenes/mentions of violence, and brief scene of implied death

Honestly, this was the story that held my attention the most. This story revolves around the growing conflict between the Sioux & Assiniboine and the Cree. I find that so many stories in literature (in general) constantly revolve around the colonization and the wars that constantly broke out during that whole time period, but we never see the struggles and conflicts between different tribes very often. And for me, this story was the main reason this anthology caught my attention in the first place. I had only heard faint whispers about the White Horse Plains, but never had a chance to ask anyone about it or get the chance to research into the story itself to learn more. And this was both sad, tragic, but understandable and beautiful in some ways.

“It’s believed the spirit of the bride resides within him, helping steer those who are lost or misguided onto the right path so that they do not fall into a tragic fate.”

The Rougarou Maija Ambrose Plamondon & Milo Applejohn (Métis) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of killing animals, mentions loss of loved one (in the past), grief

I think this one surprised me the most out of all these stories. The stories of the Rougarou are something that I’m very partial too and I guess in a way, I connected with this particular story on a very deep, emotional and personal level. This story is about a young child to encounters a Rougarou and befriends the Rougarou, and the story behind this child’s Rougarou friend. This story, though short, has beautiful themes and I cried reading this whole story. I think this is going to be my most loved and preferred story of the Rougarou thus far.

“You put yourself in potential danger because you could sense help was needed. Facing your fear is a great sign of bravery.”

Agonjin In The Water by Alice RL (Ojibwe) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was ever a story to remind you of how sacred water is, let this one story be it. If you don’t know, water is very sacred to Native/Indigenous people especially the plains tribes because droughts can be intensely rough to get through. This story does a fantastic job of emphasizing the importance of water and also the importance of story telling. And the artwork really helped paint a vivid picture for the reader.

“I cherished these stories and would love to share them with others as I grew older. And as I grew older, the water, our source of life, began to change.”

The Woman In The Woods by Mercedes Acosta (Taino) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Honestly, my breath hitched reading this story. For starters, this was my first time reading any story from the Indigenous people of the Caribbean. However, everything about this story was just so beautiful and the artwork really added to the beauty of this story. I wanted a few more pages of this story because I was just fully enthralled by everything, but I’ll settle for the few in this anthology. It was just so good and so breath-taking.

“Be careful of what you accept from spirits. Accepting their gifts binds you to them. Though some of us were never meant to be with anyone else.”

Into The Darkness by Izzy Roberts & Aubrie Warner (Navajo) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was one story I wasn’t expecting to encounter, it was this short story right here. And I should have known from the synopsis of the book, too! However, I ignored my gut feeling and thought, “No, it wouldn’t possibly be…” and then it was. I bamboozled myself! But in all honesty, just the fact that I know what this story is about and how vividly remember my aunties and uncle telling me about this… Shivers and chills, down my spine. If you know, you know, and if you don’t then count your blessings.

By The Light Of The Moon by Jeffrey Veregge & Alina Pete (S’Kallam) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Again, this seems like an obvious story I’d love, but any stories that revolve around the moon and I just immediately swoon. This story is about how the Moon fell in love with the Octopus Queen, and how some marine life became bioluminescence. I loved this story, from start to finish. I think starting the story from the perspective of two divers and concluding the way it did was chef’s kiss. This is definitely another favorite that now lives in my brain, rent free.

“Her movements were a ballet that spoke directly to the Moon’s soul.”


I gave The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories five stars overall, because out of the possible 40 stars (5 stars being possible for all 8 stories) this anthology accumulated 40 stars (100%)!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

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ARC was provided by William Morrow in exchanged for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (July 28th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Colonization, child abuse, grief, death, loss of a loved one, mention of claustrophobia, body shaming, alcoholism, gaslighting, sex, racism/racist slurs, anxiety, drug abuse, scene of attempted rape

Chills. I have literal chills running down my spine and every time I have tried to type this review, I get even more chills remembering what I read. This was such a wild ride and I never saw a lot of the twists and turns. There’s such a heavy, ominous vibe about this book and I can’t get over the way the rougarou was shown throughout this book. I also want to point out that this book is ownvoices for the Métis representation, Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author, but only one voice of the Métis community. I also want to point out that I’m not Métis. I’m Apache and I can’t make any commentary on any Métis cultural history or cultural elements that are laced throughout this book.

Victor has disappeared. After a night of their first serious argument, Victor left their home to check the trap only he never came back. Alone and broken hearted, Joan hasn’t stopped looking for her missing husband for almost a year. Then one terrible morning while hungover, she finds herself tumbling to the revival tent that many Métis have been gathering to hear a charismatic preacher. Joan comes into the tent after the service has already concluded, but just as she turns to leave, an unmistakable voice falls upon her ears.

I loved Joan as a main character. Joan is in no way a perfect heroine, but her flaws and the way she loves so deeply makes you appreciate her all the more. She’s such a loving character, she doesn’t shy away from the deep sorrow she feels, and she’s determined to to find Victor. I also really loved Zeus. He’s such an underdog and the way he grounds Joan was such a wonderful thing to read. I think both of these characters deserve more credit. Victor was a bit of a hard character to come to like because we don’t see enough of his personality. However, I love, love, loved how much Victor loves Joan and despite everything that happens with him, he still continues to search for her, continues loving her. I think these characters deserve much more credit for being the flawed characters they are, but also being so human in everything they do in this book.

“There’s lots of ways to become one.” She counted on her fingers. “Being attacked by a rogarou, mistreating women, betraying your people…that’s the ones we know around here, anyways.”

I really loved how we get some insight into Métis traditions and stories, especially with the Rougarou. Throughout this book we also get to see a deep strength of the Métis people. We see how the traditions, the stories, and the teachings are pass from generation to generation. And you just get an overwhelming sense of how resilient the Métis truly are.

The author dives into other important territories like the way religious missionaries continue to try to take advantage of Indigenous communities in their quest to take their land. We also see how colonialism continues to impact Indigenous communities as a whole and how quickly it escalates into violence. And of course, you see the racism and the stereotypes Indigenous people face every single day. You see how harmful it is and just how quick people are to assume certain things about you when you’re Indigenous.

I also want to take a moment to add this little side note. I’ve noticed a lot of readers have given this book a negative review and one of the main reasons has been to claiming this book is “too religious” or it’s a religious book. And hearing any reader say that makes me question if anyone who made this claim actually read the book in the first place. This is not a religious book in any way. This book is commentary on the way religion has been weaponized and used against Indigenous communities, how it continues to be weaponized. It’s also a commentary on how people are so willing to follow a religious leader without ever questioning their motives or actions. As someone who comes from a very colorful religious upbringing and having married someone who escaped from a cult in their youth, this is not a religious book and instead shines light on the problematic issues with religion that no one wants to talk about or address in any way.

“Old Medicine has a way of being remembered, of haunting the land where it’s laid. People are forgetful. Medicine is not.”

My only issue with this book was the multiple point of views. If you’ve been a follower of mine then you know I usually don’t read books with multiple povs. With how sharp my memory can be, when there are more than two point of views involved, things tend to blur together and that definitely happened with this book. There were parts I had to reread because I was struggling to remember who’s pov I was currently reading in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If I’m being honest, I definitely wasn’t in the right head space while reading this book and I think if I had been, the multiple povs would have been a bit easier for me to keep track of. I also want to remind all of you who are reading this review, if you’re not Métis then you don’t get to comment on the cultural elements in this book. Instead, you should be seeking out other Indigenous reviewers to hear their opinions on this book. And you should also consider doing your own research to help further your understanding about the Métis and their history. I can’t tell you how to read this book, but I strongly encourage you, if you’re non-Indigenous, to expand your knowledge, your understanding of things you don’t understand, and to challenge your preconceived ideas you may have about Indigenous people, Indigenous culture, and Indigenous history.

“If you’re gonna fight, then fight like hell. Otherwise you’re just dancing. And nobody ever defied death with a waltz.”

Buddy Read with Destiny from Howling Libraries 🧡

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (September 8th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Police brutality, gun violence, violence, homicide, racism, microaggressions, talk of human trafficking, assault, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, harassment, mentions of murder, death, historical and cultural trauma, alcoholism, drug abuse, mentions of PTSD, and so much more!

Wow, this memoir is so, so powerful. Friends, I’m shaken and I can’t put enough emphasis on how important it is for you to practice self-care while reading this memoir. I know I have the content warnings listed above, but there’s literally content warnings for anything and everything you can think of. If I had been in a better head space, I would have finished this memoir a lot faster than the time it took me to actual finish.

Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land is a memoir in the form of essays. These essays are a wide range of topics from domestic violence to police brutality and so many more. There’s a large plethora of topics, each one packed with emotions and hardships. You also see many major events that have happened throughout the years like the DAPL protests, the brutal murders of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and many others who lost their lives from police brutality. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice self-care while reading this book. All of these essays are through the author’s own experiences as a Métis woman, as a survivor. Jensen has a way of writing these essays to convey the weight of each topic. Probably the most unique thing throughout this whole book is the emphasis of language. The importance of language and how language has the power to change everything.

“In other words, like the birds, in many ways, I’ve come a long way to see a place much like one I already know—I’ve come a long way to find another version of home.”

I’m usually not someone who reads a lot of memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, etc… Usually due to never really connecting with the book or the things talked about. Plus, it’s not my place to really comment about someone else’s experiences. However, this memoir… I was sobbing and there were many parts of this memoir that I personally connected to because of surviving my own experiences of violence and hardships. The narration is beautiful, it reads very smoothly, and flows with general ease. I think the only issue I had with this book was some of the timeline jumping. There were parts where I had to reread the section to remember where in the timeline we were. So that was my only issue with the memoir. Otherwise, it was really easy to get sucked into this book.

Overall, this was a great read. I truly think if I had been in a better head space, I would have flown through this this memoir. So again, please practice self-care because there’s content and trigger warnings for anything, and everything in this book. If you are in the right head space, I highly recommend picking this up especially if you’re trying to see the world and the events of the world through a different perspective than you own. There’s a lot of raw emotions throughout this book and it’s not an easy read, but one that’s needed.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one, suicide, grief, depression, cheating, homophobia, violence/gunviolence, drugs/drug dealing, underage drinking, fatphobia, bullying, mention of police brutality, death, misandry, mentions of pedophilia, rape

Friends… I wish I knew how to start this review. I have been conflicted and have been at a loss on how to express my reading experience. For starters, this was the OMG She’s Indigenous July pick! The second thing you should know, I’m not an own voice reviewer for this. Yes, I’m Apache, but I can’t comment on the fact that this takes place on an Anishinaabe reserve. I can’t make comments on the way the community and cultural elements are represented in this book. I can only make comments relating to Apache culture and beliefs. What I can comment on and will be commenting on is the details, the characters, the problematic issues, and just my general reading experience. The other thing you need to know about this book, it’s a film to book adaptation and they might as well be two separate things.

Fire Song follows our main character Shane, who’s still feeling the weight of the loss from the suicide of his sister. With his mother slipping into depression, bills pilling up, and everything around him falling apart, Shane wants nothing more than to leave for Toronto to further his education. To be with his his boyfriend and best friend, David. Things are never that simple. With the community telling him to stay, a girlfriend who’s pressuring him at every corner, Shane comes to a crossroad and will have to make a choice.

Let me start by saying, please practice self-care while reading this book. There are a lot of heavy topics throughout this entire book. There were times where I had to set the book down, take long breaks, and take care of myself. And if you do watch the movie, know that’s a lot darker than the book. I will also be talking about a lot of these things throughout my review. So please, please take care of yourself and your mental health while reading this book, watching the movie, or reading this review.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews and seen a lot of comments about how terrible of a character Shane was throughout this entire book. I’ll be honest, I strongly disliked everyone except Shane. For the entire book, Shane is juggling a large expanse of things. You have to understand that he’s a young adult, taking on so much, and as someone who has gone through a lot of hardships back to back, he was the most relatable character to me as a character. He’s taking care of his mother, he’s trying to figure out a way to repair the roof and manage his home, has an Uncle that constantly makes him feel horrible, a community pressuring him to staying and basically telling him to give up his education, has a “girlfriend” who’s constantly pressuring Shane into things and even has a scene where she rapes him, David is constantly manipulating and emotionally/mentally abusing Shane, he keeps seeing the ghost of his sister, and on top of all of that, trying to come up with the funds to go to Toronto for his education. With all of these things, Shane is emotionally and mentally taking on a lot. He’s forced into situations he’s uncomfortable with, there’s a consistent theme of him feeling backed into a corner, and it ultimately leads to his finally breaking down multiple times.

Maybe everyone else is exactly the same, and he’s the one that’s been exchanged for another version of himself, one that’s attracted to guys, one that sees spirits and deals drugs to teenagers.

As I mentioned, Shane’s “girlfriend”, Tara isn’t that great of a character. We do get some chapters from her perspective and I’ll be frank, I didn’t like spending time in her perspective. Multiple times throughout this book, Shane makes it very clear how he feels about her. Tara is constantly inserting herself into places where Shane never asked her to be. For example, there’s a part in the book where she tells everyone she’s going to Toronto with Shane and in turn, Shane gets very upset by her doing this. I also mentioned that she ends up raping Shane. There’s a few scenes where she tries to pressure Shane into having sex with her to which he challenges with, “Why do you always have to touch me?” Then there’s a scene later on where they both go to this abandon house/shed and when she asked them if they’re going to get intimate, Shane responds with, “Yeah, I guess. I think so.” That’s not consent, bottom line. And I don’t stand for the way that whole entire scene was handled in the first place. She even tries to pressure Shane into saying “I love you” back to her. And later on in the book, even though Shane is clearly not coping well with everything, there’s a moment in Tara’s perspective how Shane owes her and rants about how terrible a person he is, even though he can barely cope with the things happening in his own life. In contrast, the movie portrays Tara in an entirely different light, one that made me extremely uncomfortable and furious.

I could keep going on and on about all the things that were problematic throughout this book. My best recommendation is to go watch the live show we hosted where we talked about movie vs. book. In the live show we go into more details of the issues.

Despite the bad elements about this book (believe me, there’s plenty), there’s a lot of important topics that come up. One of the biggest topics that comes up throughout this book is how we never seem to care enough about people while they’re living, but when they commit suicide, everyone suddenly cares. It’s such an important topic that isn’t often discussed in books and I wish we would’ve had more time spent on that because of how important it is. I also appreciate the author taking the time to show that men are also raped especially due to rarely ever seeing this talked about in media or books.

I also really liked the way grief was portrayed throughout this book. In the times that I’ve experienced grief and witnessed grief, I think it was a brilliant way of showing the reality of grief. We also see the difference of Shane’s grief compared to his mother, Jackie. Jackie’s grief is very passive and quiet, but Shane’s grief starts out very small and turns into something bigger. Think of Shane’s grief like a glass in the sink, while it’s sitting in the sink you have the faucet filling it up with water and then you forget about the turned on faucet and glass. That’s how Shane’s grief is. He becomes so full of emotions and conflict that it starts to pour out of him. It’s kind of the same way the house is too. First, it starts off with small things in the house and then is escalates to a pile up in the sink, no more groceries, and the ceiling falling to shambles. I also loved the way things were handled with moving on from the grief at the end. That really touched my heart and reminded me of the way we do certain things in my family.

Speaking of the ending, I really loved the ending of this book. I think the ending of this book is very underrated. You really feel that sense of family, the sense of love, and I just had a deep appreciation for how it played out. It was the positive note that this book really needed. There were parts at the end that reminded me of my own family and it was just one of those ends that touched a little piece of my heart.

Overall, I don’t want to waste more time talking about this. There’s so much to unpack with this book, with the movie, and we would be here all day with my ranting. There were things that I loved, appreciated, but it wasn’t enough to be the focus of this review. Just a reminder, while I’m Apache, I can’t comment on the Anishnaabe cultural elements in this book and if you’re not Anishnaabe, you shouldn’t be making comments about it either. Also, I’d like to recommend checking out our live show because we do go into further details about the book and the movie that aren’t in this review.

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An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, colonization and oppression, transgenerational and intergenerational trauma

Friends and fellow readers, what an incredible read. This was such an impactful reading experience. How often do you hear someone talk about the various Trail of Tears and the way Native Americans have been impacted throughout history? Not very often. While this book is ownvoices for the Mvskoke representation (the author is Mvskoke), I can’t speak for this experience. I’m not Mvskoke, I’m Apache and so please take my opinions with a grain of salt. But I truly loved this book and I think many readers who want to diversify their reading and hear one voice about one of the many Trail of Tears, this is a great book to start with.

“The heart is a fist. It pockets prayer or holds rage.”

This book is a collection of poems and history woven together about the early 1800s when the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their homes, their original land, just east of the Mississippi, to the Indian Territory which is now part of Oklahoma. Harjo ends up returning to her homelands and discusses an abundance of emotions, about her family, and history.

When I say this book took a piece of me, I mean it truly chipped a piece of my soul and kept it for itself. The swirl of emotions and feelings I felt while reading this were enough to sink a whole ship. There is so much hardship, grief, a large sense of loss and heartbreak, but there’s also love and hope laced throughout this book. This was the first work by Harjo that I have read and after reading this, I just want to pick up even more of her work.

Some of my favorite pieces from this book are the following:

🌄 Once I looked at the moon

🌄 Rising and Falling

🌄 Falling from the Night Sky

🌄 Rabbit Invents the Saxophone

🌄 Let There Be No Regrets

🌄 Tobacco Origin Story

🌄 Beyond

“I was taught to give honor to the house of warriors. Which cannot exist without the house of the peacemakers.”

Overall, I enjoyed this and as I mentioned, if you’re looking for books by Native American authors talking about The Trail of Tears, this is a great book to start with. The author weaves such an important picture for those who have never done any independent research of The Trail of Tears or looked for those talking about their family’s history with The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears is one of the most important pieces of colonization of the United States and I can’t express enough how important it is to listen to First Nation voices of their experiences.

Special thank you to Donna from Momsbookcollection for gifting this book!

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Misc.

OMG She’s Indigenous | July Pick

Da’anzho (pronounced dah-ahn-zho)! If you didn’t know, Michelle from Thor Wants Another Letter and I have come together to bring you, OMG She’s Indigenous, where we read or watch Indigenous literature or films then discuss it in a live show. And I’m so happy to finally be announcing our July Pick! A side note: we’ll be discussing the book as well as the movie! You can get the movie HERE!

If you’re not following us on the OMG She’s Indigenous social media, check out our Twitter and IG!

And if you haven’t followed Michelle yet, find her on Twitter, IG, and YouTube!


Our July pick is:

🔥 Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones

🔥 Dates & Breakdown:

July 18th: Chapters 1 – 4
July 19th: Chapters 5 – 8
July 20th: Chapters 9 – 12
July 21st: Chapters 13 – 16
July 22nd: Chapters 17 – 20
July 23rd: Chapters 21 – 24
July 24th: Chapters 25 – 29

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one, suicide, grief, depression, cheating, homophobia, drugs/drug dealing, violence/gun violence, underage drinking, mentions of rape/pedophilia

Liveshow: July 26th, 2020 | 7 p.m. CST/8 p.m. EST


And that’s our July pick! Don’t forget to watch the movie as well! We’ll be discussing both book and movie in our live show. You’ll hear us discuss the things we loved, the things that weren’t as good, and most importantly, talking about the Indigenous representation. If you have followed the OMG She’s Indigenous social media or Michelle’s social media, make sure you go change that right now. Of course, if you’re here on this blog then you’re already following me, but if you’re new here, check out my links below if you want connect with me. Until next time (or at least until the live show), stay safe, remember to hydrate, I love you! 🧡

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