Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021)

by Angeline Boulley
ASN/ISBN: 978150766564
Publication: March 16, 2021

Thank you for joining me on the last day of the blog tour for Firekeeper’s Daughter! If you’re interested in hopping over to check out what other reviewers had to say about the book, I’ve included the tour list below. Also, Firekeeper’s Daughter is a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, so that’s exciting!


Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate the teasers for the book.

Teaser #1
Teaser #2
Teaser #3

REVIEW


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Firekeeper’s Daughter is the story of a young biracial Ojibwe woman who must carry the weight of protecting her community after being asked to become an informant in a federal investigation that has the potential to tear it apart. I was left with a mix of feelings after finishing the novel, ranging from heartbreak to empowerment to grief, and even more committed to why we need more books from authors of color like Angeline Boulley.

I don’t normally read thrillers or crime-solving novels, but I like watching them. With its focus on solving crime, I was reminded of Veronica Mars–a show I loved and thought was cut short. Daunis is a smart and savvy 18-year old trying to solve crimes associated with a murder in her community; she wants to protect the people she loves. Daunis’s crime solving prowess is centered around the scientific method approach–drawing conclusions from the world to form a theory, which will then inform hypotheses that can be tested to provide evidence to support or not support the theory? Uh, yeah, I am all for this! There is a lot to digest in the beginning, with a few instances when the story becomes a bit convoluted, but it evens out a bit as the story continues. While it was slow to start, I eventually became fully immersed in the novel and Daunis’s life. Granny June was hilarious and quickly became one of my favorite characters. I loved the relationship Daunis had with many of her elders–it even made me teary. I enjoyed the richness of the culture, the respectful way in which it was presented, and the inclusion of so many stories, words, and phrases. Boulley seamlessly incorporates all these elements into the novel.

The general “whodunit” plot is as straightforward as it can be with just about anyone’s guess about who is involved, but there are so many more layers to the novel. Ultimately, it was these layers I liked reading the most. I connected with multiple themes in the book, which helped me to easily identify with Daunis’s character despite not identifying as either biracial or indigenous.  Many of her struggles are culturally cross-cutting, and I found parallels to my own life and my relationship with my cultures, including the need to keep worlds separate from one another and trying to find a sense of belonging in both places. I especially liked how unabashedly Boulley touched on the internal conflict Daunis faced in trying to determine what it meant to protect her community and how much to reveal to people who are not part of it. Boulley concludes that members of the community have the right to decide how much to share. You have the power to protect your story and your culture from those who might try to exploit it, twisting it for their purposes, and those with seemingly good intentions must especially try to understand the implications of their actions before doing anything. As Daunis states, “I’m the only one thinking seven generations ahead.”

Firekeeper’s Daughter is an example of why we need more diverse books, especially by authors of color, why we need people from our communities telling our stories. While I do not identify as biracial or indigenous, I connected to the story on multiple levels, as if many of my similar struggles were being laid bare. Authors of color understand the complexities, the intricacies that cannot be easily captured through the lens of someone just looking in. Boulley deftly explored multiple themes, including culture, acceptance, grief, and trauma, as only someone who identifies with the community she writes might be able to–I also highly recommend reading reviews by indigenous individuals who will be able to provide insight into whether this is the case or not. Individuals who enjoy crime-solving mysteries like Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars will find pleasure in reading Firekeeper’s Daughter. BIPOC readers will especially appreciate the representation in the book.

A huge thank you to the publisher for also providing a finished copy.

Cars, Signs, and Porcupines! (2021)

by Ethan Long
ASN/ISBN: 9781250765987
Publication: March 2, 2021
Series: Happy County #3

**I was provided a complimentary copy from the publisher. I voluntarily read it and played activities with it. All opinions are my own…and that of my nieces of course.**

In Cars, Signs, and Porcupines, kids get the opportunity to learn about Happy County while porcupines go on the loose, subsequently learning about things they might see around the communities they live in. findsomethingblueAt first glance, it can seem a bit overwhelming because many of the pages have a lot going on, but once the reading begins and the fun starts, the feeling quickly subsides. The pages are colorful and bustling with so many potential activities beyond what’s written in the book.  It encourages children to interact with each other and with adults. My nieces and I spent more than an hour perusing the pages, going over the content, and playing “I Spy.”  One of my nieces was ruthless spying “something blue” while the other went easy on me with “something black and white.” We had a great time with it! My nieces loved it and were not ready to close the book.

Accidentally Engaged (2021)

by Farah Heron
ASN/ISBN: 9781538734988
Publication: March 2, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Reena is adamant about not marrying someone her parents choose for her. Then she meets the hot guy who just moved across the hall from her. Unfortunately, Reena finds out Nadim not only works for her dad, but he’s also the guy she’s supposed to marry. She tries to remain steadfast in her resolve to stay away from him, inadvertently preventing herself from recognizing the sparks they have. Their relationship only becomes more complicated after they pretend to be engaged so Reena can enter a cooking contest.

The book has this almost languid, easy-going flow to it, and the characters never feel like they’re in a rush, so I never felt like I needed to rush through the book either. It was nice to not feel compelled to devour it one sitting even though that’s ultimately what I ended up doing because it was my choice (or so I tell myself). It flows so well that I slipped into Reena’s life with ease. No sooner had I begun the book than I immediately connected with Reena; she felt like a friend. She’s hypercritical of herself, mostly because her siblings are doing seemingly well even after certain setbacks in their lives (except for her perfect brother who’s never had a setback of course). On top of that, her parents can’t help but also poke at what she already sees as flaws in herself. Despite this, she still has this easy-going attitude. Her desire to find lasting love and pursue her dreams also made her someone easy to identify with.

My favorite part is when Reena asks Nadim to take care of Brian, her sourdough starter. When she returns, what happens after is pretty funny and showcases just how nice a guy Nadim is. Nadim is extremely likeable–mostly. He has such a sweet and playful disposition it almost feels like he doesn’t know how to yell at anyone. He’s also funny and, more importantly, he respects her and supports her dreams (swoon). Heron does a superb job of building chemistry between Reena and Nadim (they have a lot of it).

I thoroughly enjoyed Accidentally Engaged. The romance is light and Reena and Nadim have so much chemistry (did I already mention that?). I recommend it for those looking for a friends-to-lovers/relationship of convenience rom-com full of heart and good food–you’ll need to have munchies on hand or you’ll have to stop reading to go in search of some. Despite knowing the leads pretend to be engaged to enter a cooking contest, I don’t know why I was unprepared for the amount of cooking and baking. I was reading this in the middle of the night while craving for bread, cheese, samosas, and anything that showed up in the book. You have been warned.

Namesake (2021)

by Adrienne Young
ASN/ISBN: 9781250254399
Publication: March 16, 2021
Series: Fable #2


Caution: There are spoilers for Fable.

**I was provided a copy of Namesake through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

After telling her he will return for her once she is older, Fable’s father leaves her on an island to fend for herself. Realizing her father doesn’t mean to come back for her, Fable takes things into her own hands and buys her way onto a ship to make her way to find him only to be disappointed by what she finds. However, she finds out about her inheritance and forms a new family only to be ripped from them. Namesake continues where Fable ended, and we finally find out what happens to Fable.

If you enjoyed Fable and were utterly mortified when the book ended the way it did (I was audibly gasped…How could Young do this to me?), Namesake will greatly appease you. It doesn’t hit the same way that Fable does. Fable felt like a beginning, leading to some kind of exciting climax but now we are on the other side of it…and it’s not as exciting. Despite this, the book is filled with enough twists and turns you won’t know who to trust. In fact, you might end up like me and even be a bit afraid to trust anyone other than Fable. In the first book, Fable’s appearance ignites multiple events. Characters have to react to her as opposed to what happens in Namesake. Here, Fable finds herself on the other side, having to react to everyone else’s power plays. While the big player(s) already have their hands hidden and big plans to use her as a pawn, Fable has to figure out how to strategically play their game, trying to thwart them at any points possible. The political intrigue is more prominent in Namesake. The duology comes to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, with things wrapped up pretty easily. I expected a bit more fanfare so at one point I thought, wait, this is it?

While I found the romance in Fable to be sweet and West’s confession even made me a bit swoony (I’m a sucker for romance okay…let me swoon), I was less than pleased with West in multiple instances. He turns into this frustrating alpha male and refuses to listen to his crew. Not only does he override his crew but he also overrides many of Fable’s decisions. I wanted to smack him in the back of the head many times over.

I was nearly as frustrated with Fable’s feelings about her father as West was when she came to some conclusions about her relationship with Saint. I was not very satisfied with the resolution to their relationship. I get it, it’s complicated but he still basically threw his daughter to the wolves on Ceros and got off much too easy. I was not impressed by Saint’s confessions.

Overall, the duology was nearly a five star read. I liked Fable a lot (4.5 stars, possibly 5 stars) and prefer it to the second book, but Namesake was still a worthwhile read. I would gladly pick up the next book should Young decide to return to Fable’s world, because there is certainly more that can be told.

OMG! That Song Book Tag

OMG! That Song Book Tag is a tag where you have to answer with both a song and a book. I love pairing books and music so I couldn’t not do it. The tag was created by Katie at Katesbookdate, and I saw it over at Kerri McBookNerd.

MY JAM

a song you have to listen to no matter how many times you’ve heard it before

a book you’ll never get sick of

I Feel It Coming” – The Weeknd
The Weeknd is currently one of my favorite artists. While I like his most recent tracks, this one may likely remain my favorite.

The Green Rider – Kristen Britain
This is the book I read nearly every year. A classic medieval fantasy about a girl who gets kicked out of school and ends up becoming one of the king’s messengers while she’s heading home.

THROWBACK

a song that reminds you of the cringiest time in your life

a book you read that you wouldn’t like if you were to read it now

“Missing You” – Brandy, Tamia, Gladys Knight & Chaka Khan
This is both a reminder of one of the cringiest times but also one of the most memorable. That’s all I can say…or would like to say. Ha! Isn’t this such a great collaboration though?

Silent Knight – R.L. Stine
I read this so long ago but it suddenly came to mind after seeing recent news on R.L. Stine and Goosebumps. My then best friend loved these novels, and I jumped on board with her. I remember enjoying The Fear Street series at the time but I don’t think I’d enjoy them anymore.

REPLAY

a recent song that you have on repeat

a recent favorite book

“Please Don’t Touch” – Raye
A fellow blogger on Twitter shared that she had Raye on repeat and I decided to check it out. And then, I had the entire album on replay. This one is probably my favorite though.

The Knockout Rule – Kelly Siskind
I gushed about it in a review already but I liked this book so much. The leads had great chemistry and the writing tugged at my emotions.

“broken hearts are messy splintered things that break time and again but keep ticking”


GETS ME

a song that is literally me

a book that is me in book form

OK Not to be OK – Marshmello & Demi Lavato
I loved this song the first time I heard it. It’s everything I needed.
“Don’t get lost in the moment or give up when you’re closest all you need is somebody to say…It’s okay not to be okay.”

Waiting for Tom Hanks – Kerry Winfrey
Overall, I thought the book wasn’t too bad. Annie isn’t my favorite heroine but maybe it’s because I saw too much of myself in Annie. HAHAHA. She has her Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan holy trinity while I have my duo–You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. My head is always in the clouds and just about anything can turn into a meet cute in my head–hahaha. I’m going to have to reread this book now (Reviewed at A Little Haze Book Blog)

WUT

a weird song that you liked anyway

a unique book that stuck out to you for some reason

“Stonehenge” – Ylvis
This song reminds me of grad school so once in a while my friend and I send it to each other and laugh. It’s so random and funny. But seriously…what’s the meaning of Stonehenge? hahaha…

The Sun is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon
I love this book a lot, and I’ve mentioned it several times since starting this blog. It’s unique in that it’s the first book I’ve read written this way with multiple points of views that also includes an omniscient narrator (Reviewed at jthbooks; Reviewed at Reading Asian America)

LET’S GO

pick your best pump song

a book that inspires you

“Bubble Pop” – HyunA
OMG! This song will be 10 years old in July! It’s a lot of fun. It’s catchy and playful. I can’t help but get up and move around when it’s on.

Rockaway Bride – Pippa Grant
Willow, the heroine, plays it safe because she doesn’t want to worry her mom. When she finally gets the outlet she needs, she makes a bucket list of so many crazy things, including sleeping with a rockstar. Willow serves as an inspiration. It’s such a good book (My Mini-Review)

CHILL

your best relaxing song

a book you’d curl up with on a rainy day

YouTube found this for me while I was studying. This is now one of my favorites. It’s so relaxing.

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow – Laura Taylor Namey
Reading this book is like a being wrapped in a cardigan. Just thinking about it makes me want to grab a cup of mint tea. I enjoyed this book a lot. (My Review)

ADDICTING

a guilty pleasure song

a light [guilty pleasure]* read you can’t help but love

“Pull Marine” – Valentin Stuff
I don’t watch the show but I often find myself spiraling down a YouTube hole listening to various contestants from The Voice and other similar shows. I have a few favorites but this guys’ voice…the judges say it best…OH LA LA.

Since I Saw You – Beth Kery
Like the song, this book is also OH LA LA. There’s a whole lot of sex and there is a story, although not a lot. The book is good because Kery’s writing is sooo good.

*the original prompt was “trashy read” but I think guilty pleasure is a substitute I like better

NOSTALGIA

a throwback song you look back fondly on

a book you read and loved when you were young

“Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” – BSB
I grew up on boy bands, and I was a BSB fangirl all the way. Someone got into an argument with me because I liked BSB more, and she was an NSYNC fan–she threatened to beat me up. Maybe not a fond time to look back on but obviously it didn’t stop me from liking BSB. I like both P.M. Dawn’s version and the BSB cover of this song.

The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley
I’ve always loved fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy with a strong heroine, and Aerin was one of my favorites. I first read this so long ago and reread it again a couple years ago. It’s remained a favorite and reminds me why I’m a fan of medieval fantasy.

TAGS

I had a lot of fun with this tag. It made me think of the past and the present. It even made my fingers curl when searching for the song that reminded me of my cringiest time in my life. *shivers* Now, it’s time to tag…YOU!! I would love to read your responses and see what you choose and I hope you have as much fun as I did.

Down Comes the Night (2021)

by Allison Saft
ASN/ISBN: 9781250623638
Publication: March 2, 2021
Series: N/A


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

After messing up, yet again, Wren is suspended from the Queen’s Guard and forced to head back to the abbey. After receiving a request from Lord Lowry of Colwick Hall to help heal one of his servants, Wren decides to head to the estate to put her magic to better use and to use her presence there as a diplomatic opportunity to return to the Queen’s Guard. Once there, she realizes that all is not as it seems when she recognizes the servant she is to heal is Hal Cavendish, an enemy to the Crown.

Down Comes the Night is one of my most anticipated reads this year. A YA fantasy with gothic vibes? Who wouldn’t want to read it? While there were elements I would have liked more of, overall, it generally does what it sets out to do–capture our hearts and leave us captivated–but you have to get past the beginning to get there. The beginning of the book attempts to immerse readers in the world Saft’s created and to familiarize us with Wren’s current predicament. Like in any fantasy novel, establishing the world is crucial. While interesting with its ongoing political conflicts and magic system, I was a bit turned off at the beginning largely due to a lovelorn Wren constantly lamenting over her love for best friend Una and not having those feelings reciprocated. It’s not until Wren arrives at the manor that she seems finally in her element and turns into the character I hoped she would be–compassionate and competent, less caught up in a tortuous, somewhat unrequited love. It is also at the manor that the writing itself takes on the tone I was hoping for–mysterious and slightly eerie. Had the book begun and ended at Colwick Hall and been able to retain the air of mystery cultivated at the manor, I likely would have enjoyed it a lot more–not that the other parts weren’t well written; it was just better there.

Once I got to the manor, where the gothic atmosphere settles in, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The general plot is predictable, but Saft’s writing is engaging; I had to continue reading to confirm my suspicions. The mystery that forces Wren and Hal to work together is fairly straightforward. Saft drops enough clues throughout that, when paired with my suspicions, the reveals didn’t come as a complete surprise. I didn’t mind but what I did want was more blood and gore (I know. I know. For someone who stays away from thrillers, mysteries, and horror I sure do want more of what I don’t normally read in here accompanied with all the fixings, which might be a byproduct of not reading them but wanting a lot when I finally do.) The characters are well developed, with Wren and Hal fleshed out and the side characters also receiving backstories of their own. I felt like I knew them all well and understood their motivations. I think the Queen has the potential to be a more complex character and would love more on her. There’s still much to Wren’s background that remains a mystery whereas we learn a lot about Hal. The romance is a slow-burn (and I cheered when there was just a single bed…heh) and cultivated well.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It works as a standalone, but there’s a lot present that lends itself to the possibility of additional books. Individuals expecting a fully immersive gothic novel may come away a bit disappointed because, above all, it is a YA fantasy that contains elements of the gothic genre. (And I know it sounds a bit silly to explain it as such, but the novel isn’t as dark and creepy as what I would normally deem a gothic novel. It’s certainly atmospheric in parts, so it could still be a gothic YA fantasy. Semantics? Probably…Maybe my mind overly emphasized the gothic part prior to reading it.) Readers who head into the novel with this understanding will appreciate the book much more.

Yes & I Love You (2021)

by Roni Loren
ASN/ISBN: 9781728229614
Publication: March 2, 2021
Series: Say Everything #1


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Being bullied in school and living with a neurological disorder has rendered Hollyn Tate with a lack of confidence and severe anxiety in the presence of strangers, preventing her from meeting new people and making meaningful relationships outside of her existing ones. This all begins to change when Jasper Deares, the new hire at WorkAround’s cafe, enters the picture. Jasper is an aspiring actor who needs help with his career endeavors. When Hollyn’s boss requires her to start putting videos on her popular blog or risk losing her job, Jasper might just be the person she needs.

Yes & I Love You is a light romance with flawed characters and an abundance of positive messages to live by. Hollyn’s blogging allows her to do what she loves, giving her a platform to showcase how smart and witty she is but it also protects her from interacting with people. She needs an extra push to find her voice outside of her very popular online persona Miz Poppy. While she would like to meet people and be “normal,” her social anxiety and her self-consciousness over having Tourette’s serve as barriers. Jasper is a nice, aspiring actor looking for his big break. He has a strong tendency to want people to like him, a disposition he attributes to being a foster child, and he also has ADHD. He gives off the perception that he doesn’t have his life together, and to an extent, he doesn’t, but he is doing what he loves, so what “together” means can be subjective here as well as what “normal” actually is. Despite a disastrous beginning, their relationship is one filled with positive reinforcement. I loved the positive messages relayed throughout their relationship with each other–messages I needed to also hear.

I appreciated the neuro-diverse representation. While I can’t speak to how authentic the Tourette’s representation is, the depiction of social anxiety is done fairly well. Different people will have different experiences and symptoms, but I was able to relate to some of what Hollyn experienced. While improv might not be the solution for everyone, and it doesn’t necessarily “solve” Hollyn’s social anxiety nor is it meant to, it does help push her to take small steps to become more comfortable with who she is around strangers. Little steps and a willingness to try, along with people who support you, can help make a difference.

While I enjoyed the book, it would have been nice to see more of Hollyn’s relationships outside of Jasper. For instance, I wanted more of Andi, the talkative podcaster who researches serials killers in an office close to Hollyn. (The next book is her book) At one point, a girl’s night is planned, and then it never comes to fruition on the page nor do I hear about it again. I liked Fritz, Jasper’s friend, and it would have been nice to see a potential friendship established there as well.

Overall, this was an enjoyable romance. I was rooting for Hollyn and cheered when she made the first positive steps toward creating the connections she was looking for and the life she wants.