Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter
by
Angeline Boulley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this terrific novel about Daunis Fontaine, a young woman who witnesses a shocking murder and agrees to go undercover for an FBI investigation into the proliferation of a dangerous type of locally manufactured methamphetamine. The investigation, and a developing romance with the enigmatic Jamie Johnson, an agent posing as a hockey player, completely upends Daunis’s already shaky balance between the Fontaine side of her family and her Ojibwe father’s Firekeeper family. Set in 2003-4, in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, Daunis Fontaine lives with her mother, near the Ojibwe reservation where her Firekeeper family lives. Much of the two communities’ activities revolve around ice hockey and the high school, where Daunis has just completed her senior year.

Although her father, Levi, died years earlier, Daunis has close ties to the Firekeepers: Gramma Pearl, Aunt Teddie and Daunis’s half-brother, Levi. She’s equally close to her maternal grandmother, Grand Mary, who just suffered a stroke. And she wants to protect her mother, Grace, who mourns the unexpected death Daunis’s Uncle David. To help her mother care for Grand Mary, Daunis will attend college in town, instead of her dream school, University of Michigan.

The tension between the Fontaines and the Firekeepers goes back to when Grace, “the richest white girl in town” met Levi, a promising hockey player. When Grace discovered she was pregnant, her parents sent her away to have the baby and kept Levi Firekeeper’s name off the birth certificate. And when Grace returned, she discovered that Levi had married someone else and had fathered another baby, Levi, Jr.

Daunis fills her life with Ojibwe rituals, including daily offerings of semaa, a tobacco used to give thanks and communicate with the spirit world, and attends powwows to celebrate her tribal heritage. Aunt Teddie, a strong role model, wants to help Daunis become a strong woman, yet protects her from knowing too much too soon about the Ojibwe women’s blanket parties, a secret ritual that dispenses justice to men who have abused them.

Readers also learn about the community’s connections to each other and its racial divides, its struggles with drug abuse and alcoholism as well as the differences between enrolled Ojibwe descendants who receive allowances from the tribe’s casino, and others, like Daunis, who are not enrolled. But the Ojibwe, despite their problems, always show respect for the elders and the important wisdom they offer and this becomes an important theme of the book.

As the investigation continues, more young people go missing and questions arise about a drug ring inside the community. Daunis learns shocking truths about the people close to her, including Jamie, and she must make hard decisions about her future.

I enjoyed learning about the Ojibwe tribe, its beliefs and rituals, as well as the modern problems its members experience. And of course, it’s a sober reminder of the injustices Native Americans have suffered at the hands of white colonists. Although this is a Young Adult book, I think it’s an excellent read for all ages. The author, Angeline Boulley, is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. This is her first novel.

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On YouTube: The Case of the Baffling Bust

Hi Everyone,

I got a great surprise in the mail but I didn’t know who sent it. See how I solved the mystery!

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Book Review: Yellow Door by C. Faherty Brown

Hi Everyone,

Since I recently posted Colleen Brown’s Author Update, I thought this was a good time to re-share my 2020 review of her book Yellow Door. I hope you get a chance to read it!


Yellow Door
by
C. Faherty Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you’re looking for something calming to read, take a look at Yellow Door by C. Faherty Brown, a quiet reflection of one woman’s bold choice to upend her life.

The author describes the book as “a journal of a wish lived out, in fiction.” “When you have a wish” she explains, “you imagine it, how it will be, how it will happen. Instead of imagining it and leaving it in my thoughts, I wrote it down. I created my wish and lived it in this book. It is adventure, perhaps low key, but it is a real wish. A wish of travel, exploration, living on an island, visiting history, learning and discovering about a place. And about myself.”

As Faherty describes, it’s a fictional journal of a woman who quits her job, sells her house and rents a cottage on an isolated island off Ireland, much to the shock of her friends and family. Although open to day visitors and some overnighters, the only people who live on the island are the narrator and the island’s caretakers.

Her desire is to escape from a hectic life with an undefined meaningful purpose, from the constant bombardment of media, political dissention and too much technology and return to a simple life. And she wants to write. It starts as a private blog (she has internet for that), for her close friends and family. Named “Yellow Door” after her new home’s door, her daily posts are both updates and a glimpse of her private thoughts.

Her journey across the ocean is, of course, a metaphor for the journey she takes in her mind and soul. Experiencing the beauty of nature and understanding her place in the world and chronicling her time there are some of the steps she takes. She learns what is important for her, which is not to isolate herself from people, but from the traps of modern life. She welcomes tourists and wants to know them. Her other goal is to learn as much as she can about the island’s history, its people and what it was like to have lived there centuries ago.

I enjoyed this introspective read. Brown’s unique writing style has created a brave and humble character, someone who is open and easy to know. Yellow Door is a great way to imagine how a simple life can refresh and redirect your inner self.

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I was sure I was onto a book cover trend, but I could only find 2 examples!

I’ve read two books in the last month that have used the same technique on their front book covers. I don’t know what to call it so I’m naming it a split title.

What am I talking about? The titles of these two books split one of the words into two words on the cover, but on the spine and in all other references, it’s one word. I think the publishers want to have the font as big as possible on the cover, but adding a hyphen would look weird, so they just skip it. I was sure I was on to a trend, but I’ve two days looking for examples and can’t find even one more!

Here’s what I mean:

See how The Breakdown by B. A. Paris is split into BREAK and DOWN? But the actual title is The Breakdown. It’s the same with Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, split into FIRE and KEEPER’S.

By the way, both books were very good so stay tuned for reviews!

Can you find any other examples? I’m going to keep looking and hope to add to my collection.

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Book Club Mom’s Author Update: News from C. Faherty Brown

Hi Everyone, Happy Friday! I recently caught up with author C. Faherty Brown to learn about her TWO NEW BOOKS. Read more about them here:

I learned years ago that brevity is my friend, so my news is short. I just published SNOW NIGHT, a fictional story inspired by a story my grandmother told me many years ago. It has sadness within, but it is full of love and how we move forward. Earlier this year, I published ANOTHER YELLOW DOOR, a follow-up to my favorite piece of work, YELLOW DOOR, (though SNOW NIGHT runs a close second.)

Website/blog link: https://bikecolleenbrown.wordpress.com/


Are you working on a new book? Have you won an award or a writing contest? Did you just update your website? Maybe you just want to tell readers about an experience you’ve had. Book Club Mom’s Author Update is a great way to share news and information about you and your books.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

Open to all authors – self-published, indie, big-time and anything in between

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Book Review: Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Black Cake
by
Charmaine Wilkerson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What better way to start off the new year than to share a great book I just finished? Black Cake is Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel about family, secrets, race, identity, displacement, and tradition in which the author asks the recurring question, “What are you willing to do?” This book is loaded with important themes and wrapped around characters and situations that are both unique to the story and universal to readers’ experiences.

The story begins as Byron and Benny Bennett meet to listen to a recording their mother has made before her death. As part of her final wishes, Eleanor Bennett insisted that they listen to the recording together and that her adult children, one day, find a way to share the black cake she has stored in her freezer. Byron and Benny have barely spoken to each other since a disastrous Thanksgiving eight years earlier. Their estrangement was further set two years later when Benny was an apparent no-show at their father’s funeral.

Set outside Los Angeles and on an unnamed Caribbean island, readers learn about Eleanor’s childhood, how she met and later married Bert Bennett and how the couple moved to California to raise a family. Eleanor and her husband, Bert were always vague about their childhoods, saying only that they were orphans. And although their children sometimes wondered, they never pressed for details. Eleanor made sure, however, to teach Benny how to make the traditional black cake, prepared with fruits soaked in rum and port. “This is your heritage,” she tells her children.

Byron and Benny’s lives are about to be upended in ways they can’t imagine. The timing could be either terrible or just right because they are both at crossroads. Byron, a highly successful ocean scientist with a huge social media following, was recently passed over for the director’s position at the institute where he works. In addition, as a black man, he has been pulled over by police too many times. Benny has floundered since dropping out of the elite college she had attended, moving several times while studying cooking and art. Being light-skinned, Benny experienced a different kind prejudice at college and felt a dividing tension and ignorance between her black and white friends. She has also struggled with her sexuality, part of the reason for the Thanksgiving rift in her family.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is all about making hard choices and deciding what you are willing to do to go forward. In addition to choices, each questions how their inherited physical and personality traits fit into their identities. Physically, Benny is light and Byron is dark. Benny also has a “spirit of defiance” just like her mother. Now that they know the whole story, they will need to make their own hard decisions and accept their altered ideas of family and identity. In the end, Eleanor reminds her children, despite the secrets she’s kept, “Who I am is your mother. This is the truest part of me.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Black Cake and recommend it to all readers. I want to thank F for recommending it to me!

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On YouTube: sharing 2 cool gifts I got for Christmas!

Hey Everyone,

I’m over on YouTube today sharing 2 cool gifts I got for Christmas!

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Book Club Mom’s Top Reads of 2022

I read A LOT of excellent books in 2022! Looking forward to more great reads in 2023! What’s on your reading list?

Run by Ann Patchett – 4 stars

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow 4.5 stars

If I Were You by P.G. Wodehouse – 4 stars

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson – 4 stars

Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks – 4 stars

The Second Mrs. Astor: A Novel of the Titanic by Shana Abé – 4 stars

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 4 stars

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – 4.5 stars

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson – 4 stars

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler – 4.5 stars

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – 5 stars

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast – 5 stars

Kusama: The Graphic Novel by Elisa Macellari – 5 stars

One by One by Ruth Ware – 4.5 stars

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow – 4 stars

French Braid by Anne Tyler – 4 stars

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige – 4 stars

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy – 4 stars

The Family by Naomi Krupitsky – 4 stars

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian – 4 stars

Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steve Callahan – 5 stars

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards – 4.5 stars

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolf – 4 stars

Love Marriage by Monica Ali – 4.5 stars

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith – 5 stars

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy – 4 stars

Fatal Rounds by Carrie Rubin – 4.5 stars

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke – 4 stars

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – 4 stars

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Happy New Year from Book Club Mom!

Hi Everyone,

During my blogging break and with the new year approaching, I’ve thought a lot about my blog. To be honest, I’ve lost a little bit of interest in it. I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been doing it for a long time or if I’m just busier. I was a stay-at-home mom when I started my blog and now I have a part-time job and my kids are nearly out of the house. So in many ways, I have more time, but…that’s the I don’t know part.

This is my tenth year of blogging (my actual anniversary is six months from now). Some of you have been following me from that first post in June 2013, in which I reviewed Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Since that post, I’ve made plenty mistakes and experimented with different features and formats. I’ve also made A LOT of blogging friends, truly the best part!

I think it’s really important to stay fresh and try new things, but I’ve felt like my blog has been in a rut. So with 2023 a day away, I’ve made some changes for the new year.

First, my header

I never really liked my most recent header. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I created it. And I’ve experimented with other banner designs over the years. I don’t like switching things up too much because I think it’s important to stay consistent, but because of other changes, this seems like a good time. So, I hope you like it!

Next, my review format

From now on, I’m only going to formally review 4- and 5-star books, books I highly recommend. I’ll combine everything else I’ve enjoyed during the month into one post, with shorter reviews. I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the years about my 3-star reviews, why not 4 or 5 stars? Don’t misunderstand, these are books I also liked! I follow the Goodreads format (see below). And, it’s my opinion, to reflect my reading tastes. I feel strongly about expressing an authentic opinion, so you know who I am and what I like.

In case you’re interested, here’s the Goodreads format:

5 stars: it was amazing
4 stars: really liked it
3 stars: liked it
2 stars: it was ok
1 star: did not like it

Who’s That Indie Author and BCM’s Author Updates

These have always been popular features and I’ll continue to post these. I’m working on new interview questions and a more interesting format for Author Updates, so stay tuned!

What’s That Book? Blog Views and Other Obsessions, Short Story Reviews, and Books on my Radar

I’ll also continue with these and other occasional features:

YouTube

I enjoy making these and will continue to share them on my blog.

So that’s about it. I’ve been reading a lot over the last few weeks, so you’ll see some new posts about those books coming in January. Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday season!

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Holiday check-in

Well, I’ve read two books since my last post, but I’ve been so busy off the blog I haven’t had a chance to write reviews or read other blogs. I’ll be back soon, though!

Hope everyone is having a nice holiday season and I’ll “see” you soon!