REVIEW: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Trigger warnings for racism, death of a loved one, rape, and drug use.

Eighteen-year-old Daunis’ mixed heritage has always made her feel like an outsider, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation, and after a family tragedy puts her college plans on hold, the only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. But when she witnesses a shocking murder, she reluctantly agrees to be part of a covert FBI operation into a series of drug-related deaths. But the deceptions – and deaths – keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. Now Daunis must decide what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

While Firekeeper’s Daughter is certainly a mystery, it is definitely a slow burn one and it’s the characters and the relationships that are more of the focus of the story. It’s more a story of culture, identity, and belonging with Daunis trying to find a place for herself and dealing with her grief even as she is trying to learn enough to stop anyone else from getting hurt. The grief Daunis feels is palpable and is almost like a shadow over the whole novel as she tries to work her way through it and understand that different people deal with grief in different ways. Daunis has lost a lot of people she cared about and how she tries to compartmentalise it all is very relatable.

Daunis as a character doesn’t really have an arc as such. She’s always been a good and caring person, but it’s as her world shifts as she learns more about the people in the community she grew up with, that her world-view has to change to accept these new truths. She has always been sure of who she is in terms of her heritage with a white mother and Ojibwe father and she’s always felt connected to her people, it’s just that almost everyone else has seen her as one or the other, never both – or they see her as not good enough to be one or the other. (more…)

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge 2023 Edition

Another April has gone by and it’s been another successful A-Z Challenge here on ElenaSquareEyes.

This was the tenth year in a row I’d taken part in and completed the challenge and I think it was the most organised I’d ever been. I had written and scheduled all the posts before April began which had never happened before. I was also on top of replying to comments and visiting other blogs taking part in the challenge at the start of the month. Unfortunately, that didn’t really continue as real life got in the way; I had a friend’s wedding I had to travel to so that took a few days of my time and in the middle of the month I started a new job. The new job is full-time but it’s kind of shit work too which I’ve never done before so I’ve been getting used to working alternate Fridays and Saturdays and starting and finishing at different times, not the usual 9-5 which I’ve pretty much always done.

I am going to try and reply to all the comments I missed by the end of the week, and return the favour to the blogs that came and visited me. While the A-Z Challenge is a personal challenge, I think the community aspect is still really important.

This year’s theme was very different and was all about Doctor Who. My most popular posters were on “Dalek”, “Amy’s Choice”, Christopher Eccleston, and Sarah Jane Smith. My favourite posts to write were on “Rose”, “Dalek” and “Utopia” (they’re such good episodes!), and about x-tra/would-be companions. It was really fun to focus in on one show and the different aspects of it that I love so much and sharing that joy with other people, whether they were familiar with the show or not.

At the moment I have no idea what my theme for the A-Z Challenge would be next year or even if I’ll take part. I always said I wanted to make it to ten years which I have so if I don’t think of a theme or don’t have the time to for the challenge, I won’t feel too bad about it.

I hope all of you who took part in the challenge had fun and a successful A-Z in April. Thanks to all those who stopped by my blog and liked, commented or followed – it always means a lot. For more information on the A-Z in April Challenge visit the website.

Also wanted to give a shout out to fellow A-Z in April blogger Tim Brannan, The Other Side who also had Doctor Who as their theme but included the original/classic Doctor Who characters and stories too. I’ve learnt a lot from their posts and one day I will watch the original run of Doctor Who for the first time!

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

Still reeling from the loss (and sort of reappearance) of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Peter Quill (Chris Prtt) rallies the team to save the universe and one of their own as the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) sends out mercenaries including Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) to retrieve one of his past experiments – Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper).

The Guardians of the Galaxy films and characters have always been a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some characters I really like, others I find annoying and the films themselves don’t always work for me with the kind of humour they have running through it. So, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. That James Gunn-humour is still there, and while I heard other people in the cinema laugh out loud a lot, I don’t think I did once but would still regularly grin a joke. Unlike in other MCU films where a joke undercuts any dramatic or emotional tension, Vol. 3 didn’t really have that and actually let some more dark and serious moments settle with you.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 delves into Rocket’s backstory and his connection with the High Evolutionary. It is almost hard to watch all the animal experimentation going on even though they’re all computer-generated and it definitely skirts the edges of body horror at times. The High Evolutionary is also one of those kind of old-school villains in the sense there’s no tragic backstory and instead they are just a horrible, manipulative person who does evil things to innocent people and you want to see get them get their comeuppance. It’s kind of nice to have a villain that’s there to be awful and for the audience to hate without being like “well they kind of have a point to an extent”. The High Evolutionary has a huge ego and a god-complex and does horrendous things because of it and thinks he’s right. He’s just the sort of villain you want to see beaten. (more…)

Asian Readathon 2023 TBR

In May in the United States, it is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in honour of that Cindy from WithCindy on YouTube created a readathon where the main aim is to read books by Asian authors. Her announcement video explains it all really well and she also has a Google Doc with extra info and resources and there’s a Twitter account for the readathon too.

This year’s challenge is loosely themed around the film Joy Ride and is meant to be easy, accessible, and open to interpretation. The reading challenges are:
– Read a book written by an Asian author.
– Read a book featuring a friendship between at least two Asian characters.
– Read a book written by an Asian author and/or featuring an Asian character that is focused on identity and self-discovery.
– Read a book written by an Asian author and/or featuring an Asian character that shows them going on an adventure.
– Read a book featuring an Asian character who is either a hot mess, famous, or eccentric.

These challenges can be combined if you want to make it even easier! There is a twist though. You can combine challenges and read in any order; however, each book you read should feature a character or author of a different Asian ethnicity. This is to encourage cultural diversity. I’ve had a look through my physical TBR and the holds I’ve got from my library to see what Asian authors I have there and I’ve made a note of each authors nationality/ethnicity as is available online. I’m not sure if/how any of these books will fit the prompts but I will try to read more from Asian authors in May regardless. So far this year I’ve read 27 books and of them four of them were by Asian authors – Constance Wu, Roshani Chokshi, Abigail Hing Wen, and Seishi Yokomizo.

The Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi (Iranian American)
I’ve not read any of Tahereh Mafi’s books before but I got The Woven Kingdom in a subscription box last year. It’s the start of an epic Persian-inspired fantasy series and as I tend to be pretty bad at reading series, it’s not been a book I’ve been quick to reach for. (more…)

REVIEW: Polite Society (2023)

Martial artist-in-training Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) believes she must save her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from her impending marriage. After enlisting the help of her friends, Ria attempts to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists.

Polite Society was such an unexpected delight. It’s inventive and fun and blends different genres so well. It’s a martial arts action film, a family drama, a romance, a comedy, a coming-of-age story and it combines all those elements really well and in unexpected ways. It also excellently blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Ria and Lena are the only characters who have been stated to know martial arts, but that doesn’t stop other characters getting in on the action. Plus, there are moments where characters have evil monologues or characters fights are more symbolic of their argument. It’s a really odd but interesting and compelling way to tell a story. (more…)

Z is for The Zygon Inversion speech

Throughout the series and the Doctor’s regenerations there’s always been some really great speeches from the Doctor. They’re impassioned as they fight to get people to understand, to get people to stop fighting and to listen, to find a peaceful resolution for a conflict, or to talk someone down from the metaphorical edge.

I love how each Doctor gets a big speech, sometimes more than one, and how each version of the Doctor, each actor who plays them, delivers the speech differently. Especially when you compare where each Doctor is in their lives, what experiences are still too raw while for others they’ve had a lot more time and distance from a tragedy and can perhaps reassess things more clearly.

“The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion” is a two part story in series nine and overall I don’t have strong feelings either way about the episodes themselves but the Twelfth Doctor’s big speech in the climax of the story is brilliant. Peter Capaldi is phenomenal and the pain and guilt over his acts during the Time War, the regret he has about the things he’s done and the unfathomable consequences of war is just fantastic. The Doctor is pleading for Bonnie and Kate Stewart to make better choices, to choose to talk to one another and find a better solution rather than pressing a button in mutually ensured destruction. It’s a fantastic and emotional speech, so well-written and performed, and it’s a standout moment in Capaldi’s time as the Doctor.

Y is for Yasmin Khan

Yasmin Khan was a good companion and Mandip Gill played her wonderfully – I think it was often her performance that made me like Yaz rather than the writing. Having her be one of three companions for most of her time in the TARDIS made it easy for any of the them companions to fade into the background as there wasn’t enough time, space, or dialogue for good character development for any of them. It’s a juggling act having that many companions, plus the Doctor, and often it seemed like the writers failed at giving them all well-rounded personalities and motivations and giving them all something to do of consequence in each episode. Yaz, along with Graham and Ryan, sometimes felt like a homogenous blob because of how they reacted to things. While one of the main points of the companion is to question things/be the eyes of the viewer, the way they questioned things or reacted to stuff seemed to be just there to drive the plot forward rather than the reactions of lived in characters with life-experiences.

Yaz perhaps got the most interesting backstory elements, with her grandmother being caught up in the partition of India and it being revealed that Yaz contemplated taking her own life, but those major events didn’t seem to have ramifications for her and were forgotten about as soon as those episodes were over.

Yaz was a trainee-police officer before meeting the Doctor so her rookie investigative skills and notetaking came in handy when traveling through time and space. She was also often quite level-headed and was quite good at calming people who were shocked or scared. Yaz was also pretty good at getting people to open up and to trust her and the others when they were trying to help and stop whatever bad thing was going to happen.

One thing I did like about Yaz and her time in the TARDIS was how she became the Doctor’s co-pilot and had clearly been taught how to fly the TARDIS and was a diligent student, taking notes and using post-it notes to remind her of what each level or button did. The Doctor doesn’t always trust a companion with the TARDIS so the fact that she trusted Yaz shows a big part of their relationship and the Doctor’s feelings. It’s a pity we didn’t get a more concrete demonstration on how the Doctor and Yaz’s relationship evolved over time.

Yaz’s developing feelings for the Doctor and how she fell in love with her was pretty subtle to begin with – so much so that I didn’t notice what other people were reading into various episodes or quick glances. With hindsight I could kind of see it, but I think it was something that was never intended to be explored and it was a sort of bittersweet and tragic would-be romance in the end as Yasmin’s time with the Doctor ran out before they could act on any feelings or really properly address them.

I did like Yaz, and her fellow companions during Thirteen’s run, but when comparing her to some of the previous companions mentioned during this A-Z Challenge she unfortunately doesn’t standout. It could partly be childhood nostalgia, but I do think there wasn’t enough done to make Yaz a layered character and one that I can easily list off her traits that make her a great companion.

X is for X-tra Companions

Look, the letter “X” is a hard prompt to fill so I am cheating a bit. In each episode of Doctor Who you meet a lot of new one-off characters and some of them leave a mark. This post is for some of those characters who I could totally see have become a companion if the Doctor had met them at a different time, or if the events of the episode(s) they were in went slightly differently because the tragedy of such good one-off characters and would-be companions is sometimes, they don’t survive the adventure.

Lynda Moss – “Bad Wolf”/“The Parting of the Ways”
Lynda was the first one-off character who I instantly found to be very likeable and wouldn’t have minded of seeing more of her. She’s a very sweet, bubbly person and helps the Doctor to acclimatise to this strange and unexpected situation he found himself – apparently a housemate in the Big Brother house. Lynda was brave and fun and the fact that the Doctor said yes when she asked if she could travel with him after only knowing her for a few hours shows how much of an impression she’d made on him.


Dr Nasreen Chaudhry – “The Hungry Earth”/“Cold Blood”
Nasreen is a bit different to the other characters mentions here she does survive her episodes but she does choose to hibernate under the Earth for hundreds of years so there’s no real chance that we can see her again. I did love that decision though; she chose to stay with the Silurians (a lizard-like race) underground to pursue her thirst for scientific knowledge and to be with the man she loved. I think a sign of how great Nasreen was is that the Doctor chose her and Amy Pond to be Ambassadors for humanity in the human-Silurian talks that would decide the fate of the planet. He’d only known Nasreen for a couple of hours but was already impressed by her intelligence and had considered taking her on a trip in the TARDIS because of it.

Rita Afzal – “The God Complex”
Rita was an English medical student who along with other humans and aliens was abducted from their lives and placed in a hotel that killed people with their deepest fears. She was smart and perceptive, quickly figuring out possible scenarios for what was happening thanks to observing everyone and everything. The Doctor instantly took a shine to her and even joked that Amy was fired and Rita was now going to join him in the TARDIS. Rita was a devout Muslim and I really liked how her faith was incorporated into her character as that’s not something we see that often in Doctor Who. Or rather fictional/alien faiths are mentioned quite frequently but not real-world/present day ones.

Grace O’Brien – “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”
Honestly this one still makes me mad. Grace is such a wonderful character and is the one who instantly rolls with the weirdness of the Doctor falling through the roof of the train she’s on and the weird glowing ball of light that zaps her. Her husband is far more hesitant about getting involved while Grace embraces the adventure and the desire to help others. I get that it’s a tragedy that Grace dies and doesn’t get the chance to travel the universe after loving every second of the short adventure she was on with the Doctor. Grace has all the best qualities of a companion; she’s kind, is calm under pressure, and she’s adaptable. I instantly took to her and wanted more of her compared to the other characters who’d end up as companions. I honestly think Grace had more personality and definable traits in one episode than a lot of Thirteen’s companions did in dozens of episodes.

W is for Rory Williams

Rory is such a fun and relatable character and I loved it when he started travelling with Amy and the Doctor. I think his personality balanced out the kind of impulsiveness that both Amy and the Doctor had and tried to keep things on an even keel. Sure, he had his moments of jealousy over Amy and the Doctor’s relationship but once it became clear where everyone stood then this TARDIS trio worked really well together.

I’ve always liked moments when you can see how travelling with the Doctor has rubbed off on the companions in some way. It’s like how in “Asylum of the Daleks” it must’ve been a few years since Amy and Rory had travelled with the Doctor but Rory still carries a pocket torch and is ready for anything. I also like how Rory is a nurse and his medical skills are used throughout the series, and that he’s just generally a really caring and empathetic person. Rory’s always willing to help people, even those who are perhaps seen by others as dangerous or beyond help, which can then put him in danger.

Rory has a sarcastic sense of humour and it can be a bit dark at times which I appreciate as someone who also has a dark sense of humour. You’ve got to find the humour in certain situations or else you’ll cry. I do find it very funny how blasé Rory becomes about his many near-death and actual death experiences. It kind of became a running joke in the fandom but his first death really was surprising and heart-breaking, especially as the circumstances around it meant that Amy forgot about him completely.

As I said, I really starting vibing with series five when Rory joined the TARDIS. The Eleventh Doctor and the Ponds is one of my favourite Doctor/companion dynamics as I think the three of them balanced each other out and it was clear how much they all cared about each other. While Rory may have been a bit jealous of the Doctor to being with, I liked how their dynamic developed and how Rory was one of the people who could call the Doctor out on his lies.

V is for Village of the Angels

Series 13 of Doctor Who did something a bit different and had one larger story told over the course of six episodes. It was called “Flux” and there was a lot of moving parts to it, personally there were some I liked, some I didn’t, and some stuff I still didn’t quite understand even having now watched it twice but one thing that did stand out was the fourth episode in this story arc; “Village of the Angels”.

It’s my favourite episode of this story arc because it’s one of the more self-contained ones. Set in Devon in the 1960s, a little girl has gone missing, Professor Eustacius Jericho (Kevin McNally) is conducting psychic experiments, and in the village graveyard, there is one gravestone too many – it’s the Weeping Angels.

As mentioned before when I talked about “Blink” which is the first episode these creatures appeared in, the Weeping Angels are proper scary when done right. By this point it’d been a while since we’d had an episode with Weeping Angels, and the last time they were used it had got a little samey for me so they didn’t feel as terrifying as they once were. “Village of the Angels” changed that and made the Weeping Angels a proper threat again. Characters got caught by the Angels and sent back in time, some characters we care about, others we don’t, and the realities of getting stuck in the past feels real and dangerous.

As well as giving us a scary villain, “Village of the Angels” gives us some great new characters in Professor Jericho and Claire (Annabel Scholey). There’s a lot happening in these Flux episodes and new characters are introduced all the time but those two really stood out. Jericho is smart, kind and quickly adapts when the Doctor arrives and starts talking about moving statues and the importance of not blinking. Claire is a woman out of time with some psychic abilities meaning there’s the opportunity to do something different with the Weeping Angels and her mind. The highest accolade I can give to characters like Jericho and Claire is I’d love to see them have more adventures in the TARDIS. They are both companion-material.

“Village of the Angels” is a really atmospheric story that does push the overarching “Flux” plot on, but also puts characters in proper peril, has a relentless villain, and has the kind of cliffhanger that is almost impossible to live up to the potential it sets up.