REVIEW: One Day in December

Meh, not a bad story just not one for me. It’s well written and I’m sure it works for lots of people, but the storyline in this one was super frustrating to me.

First, two folks fall in love when seeing each other for a quick second in public. Now as someone who met her husband on the subway, and does believe in the principle of love at first site, you’d think this would speak to me. But my husband and I had a spark but not all encompassing love at first glance. These two imagined a whole soul sucking relationship and threw everything they had into the idea of it. When they meet again, he is dating her best friend and they both just pretend they’ve never met. If they just had a normal conversation at this point, story over.

Basically these are young kids choosing to fake happiness and ignore their actual feelings. This ideation is what leads to divorce and mid-life crises. I get that it’s a story and that this is what people actually do, but I can’t look at this as a story to uphold with hearts and butterflies for people to aspire to.

This is not me intending to trash an author or their work, it’s simply a difference of opinion on whether this kind of story is good for mass consumption. This is why I’m selective on romance picks, I have very particular views and these are the type of people I judge for their decisions and the harm they cause others with their selfishness in the name of valor.

I feel like I’ve been fair with my rating, because while my opinion of the story and characters has dropped it slightly, I am acknowledging the writing and the author’s work.

How do you rate a book you don’t quite love?

~ Dana

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

Ok, finally a holiday rom com-y type book that I enjoyed. I am a sucker for a Pride & Prejudice retelling or in this case, tribute. The characters in this (despite the fact that they were uber rich) were quite real and easy to get to know and relate to.

At its heart the story was about love, loyalty and following your gut towards happiness. Darcy had a great character arc, she went from strong, arrogant and completely closed off to her emotions to quite a sweet, openhearted person.

I also liked that the story actually had winter and holiday elements rather than a quick allusion to it being Christmas time. It was just the positive, festive easy to read story I was looking for to get me in the holiday spirit.

Have you ever had a kiss under the mistletoe?

~ Dana

Star ratings

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Let’s talk star ratings… everyone does these differently. Do you use a critical, analytical system that is consistent every time? Rating based on the technical execution of the story including both exposition and structure? Or do you rate it based on how the book impacted you personally? Whether you enjoyed reading it or it made you feel all the feels?

For me the star ratings are simply about how I feel about the book when I finish it. It’s totally subjective and decisions based on emotion and not critical analysis and logic. I save the text of the review to talk about the technical execution, unless that’s all there is to save it from getting no stars…

It’s not a perfect system, I’ll admit I often look back at my star ratings after I’ve had serious time to reflect and wonder what was I thinking initially. This has led to me going back later to adjust ratings and also re-buying books I previously gave away. Seriously! 😳

So here’s how I do it:

  • 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is a book I’ll never forget, one that I can’t stop thinking about or changed my view on the world. I would likely re-read it and one that I’ll always recommend if asked.
  • 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A book I loved and will probably get a space on my shelf but isn’t a shoe-in for a re-read or a recommendation.
  • 3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ These are books I enjoyed but it’s a ‘like’ not ‘love’ situation, I may have found it uneven or well executed but not well written or well written but the plot was slightly lacking. I would potentially recommend it but with caveats. This category is also often used for books in categories that I don’t gravitate towards (romance or self help) where the book is well done but maybe not for me.
  • 2 ⭐️⭐️ Books that I did not enjoy or were poorly written but had some redeeming factor.
  • 1 ⭐️ This rating is used when a book is either seriously flawed or a DNF and leaves me wondering how it got published. A DNF that is poorly written gets no stars and just a DNF but a DNF that is just not for me but might be enjoyed by someone else gets a single star with that explanation.

I am honest about every book I read and record my reviews on Goodreads regardless of the star rating. But for here on my blog or on Instagram, I will only publish 3 stars or above. I want my spaces to be positive and about books I want to talk about. You’ll rarely see me ranting negatively about a book that I know an author put their heart and soul into and many people likely love. I simply will be clear that the book wasn’t for me but will try to find some redeeming factor to focus on.

How do you do your star ratings?

~ Dana

HOLIDAY REVIEW: Carols and Chaos

Well, I’ll admit I’m not one who rushes for holiday reads but I decided this year to make a stab at finding some yuletide reads to get me in the spirit. In Carols and Chaos I was expecting a light, frivolous Christmas romp but what I got was much more intrigue than I expected. Think of one those Downton Abbey episodes with a scandalous mystery at it’s heart.

Matt and Kate make no bones about it that they like each other, a real smack in the face to the normal romcom tropes that abound these days. They are both in the employ of two great families whose son and daughter are courting. They know they must operate under the rules of propriety while the two families are together for the holidays but find themselves quickly embroiled in a mystery after one of the footman goes missing. The two sleuth about the town, using her connections and knowledge of the area and his guile and brawn. They get in quite a few scrapes trying to find the footman and bring him home.

Giving this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 as it surprised me with a little meat behind the holiday romance.

What’s your favorite Christmas carol?

~ Dana

Author Appreciation Post

First let me start by saying I am a huge Charlie Holmberg fan! She was this knack for creating strong but relatable female characters and fantastical magical worlds that are unique, creative and yet easy to immerse yourself in.

When I read Spellbreaker, I immediately fell in love with Elsie and was dying for the conclusion of her story. The villain in this duology is great in that their motives aren’t malevolent but the actions they take to achieve their goal are. I love a story with a moral gray area that makes you think.

The growth of the relationship between Elsie and Bacchus was fun to follow. They grow from cautious circumstantial allies into a loyal, fiercely protective duo. It’s a slow burn relationship that was a much more comfortable read for me than some of the YA insta-love, overwhelming passion in 2 seconds relationships that seem to fly off the shelves.

This is a great, fun conclusion to the series that you won’t be able to put down. I wouldn’t hate another story in this world! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ These would make a great gift for the magic lover in your life. Spellmaker will release in March.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

What are you reading this fine Saturday?

~ Dana

REVIEW: Winter Counts

“There is no word for goodbye in Lakota.That’s what my mother used to tell me. Sure, there were words like toksa, which meant ‘later,’ that were used by people as a modern substitute. She’d told me that the Lakota people didn’t use a term for farewell because of the idea that we are forever connected. To say goodbye would mean the circle was broken.”


Winter Counts is a stark look at modern life on a reservation, the author states in his author’s note that this is a fictionalization of what he has experienced as true to life on his reservation. As an “own voices” novel, I am tentative to write my review in such a way that is not at all critical of the people portrayed within. I fully acknowledge my status as descendent of colonizers and hate that element of our history. I have always found the Native American culture intoxicatingly beautiful and I love the way it is portrayed in this story. The author perfectly illustrates the balance between those who want to raise up their tribe and revel in their culture and those who find it more reasonable to assimilate.

The heart of this story is about the continued marginalization of the Lakota tribe and how there are members of the tribe who continue to facilitate this for their own personal gain. Virgil is not a model citizen by any means but as this story starts he is trying to do everything he can to survive and allow his nephew to thrive. When the case he is charged to investigate by tribal leaders entangles itself with his own life, we see just how far people will go to take advantage of the tribe. The crime story at the center of this story is so compelling and told with such a careful, metered approach you’ll be wanting more of Virgil’s brand of justice by the end.

In these characters we see both the good and bad of humanity. Having worked with the IHS for many years, I can tell you there are immensely good people working to support the health of indigenous people on the reservations but it’s definitely not enough. If you want to see a snapshot of the challenges faced by these programs, this book has a great view of it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was book 250 for me for the year, how many books have you read so far this year? Have you met your goal?

REVIEW: The Woman in the Cupboard

The Woman in the Cupboard is a story about a series of murders that are seemingly related but there is no obvious motive or suspect. When two detectives reach the scene of a double murder they find few clues until they find a mysterious woman in the cupboard. This woman has no memory of the murders and is seemingly unable to communicate either who she is or whether she was a witness to the murders. As the detectives begin to investigate they find themselves embroiled in a more dangerous international web of human trafficking than they could have imagined.

Where this book goes was a completely new direction for me, I found it really intriguing learning about a culture that I hadn’t had prior experience. I will caveat, that I don’t know how true any of it was to the true culture but I enjoyed the fictionalized version of it as a part of the story. I don’t want to go into details because it would spoil it but its a great murder mystery with lots of dark characters and suspects. The ending was quite good, I liked the way it all wrapped up.

My only criticism is that I found D’Angelo very challenging to read early on, he seemed a bit of a machismo cop stereotype, which rubbed me the wrong way. But I did come around on him as the story went, so have patience with that if you pick this one up.

Thanks to Kate Rock Book Tours for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

I received this book as a part of a book tour – have you ever participated in a PR tour for a book?

~ Dana

D (A Tale of Two Worlds)

“Or, as the Professor used to explain it when he gave history lessons about revolutions, an “explosion of fed-upness.”


D (A Tale of Two Worlds) is a beautiful fairy tale about a dauntless heroine, Dhikilo, who wakes up one morning to find the letter D has disappeared from the alphabet. At first, it just seems uncomfortable and Dhikilo wonders why no one seems as perturbed as she is. But then, things starting with the letter D start disappearing as well she enlists the help of a former teacher who sets her on a path to another dimension to set the world to rights.

She goes through a Narnia-like magical door with a dog who is actually a sphinx at her side. The journey she goes on is reminiscent of Dorothy through Oz, she meets all sorts of interesting citizens of this magical world that has been stealing her D’s. There are moments of strife and fear; there are moments of joy and triumph. Can she make her way to confront the evil dictator and find out how to restore peace, order and the letter D to the world?

The way this story is told is beautiful and fun. The narrator laughingly tells us when a character is important to remember or irrelevant to the story. The details of who Dhikilo is and why she is perfect for this pursuit is so lovingly told. If you’re looking for a beautiful story to get lost in this year, D is it!

What’s your favorite middle grade fantasy? Did you get lost at Hogwarts or Narnia as a kid? Do you have a daemon like Lyra?

~ Dana

A love for the written word…

When I was thinking where to start my journey with this blog, I thought the spark at the beginning was the right place. It’s hard to say just when one falls in love with something, but for me my love of reading started early. My parents are not overly educated people but they always felt that reading was very important. Both of them read but wouldn’t consider themselves “readers.” They read to us every night when my brother and I were young and before long they couldn’t keep a book out of my hand. I had a curfew but it wasn’t to keep me from going out and making trouble with my friends, it was when I had to turn the light out at night and stop reading.

My dad reading Dr Seuss to my brother and me.

My favorite book as a young child was a book called Socks for Supper that is well out of print but it was about a poor couple who trade socks for food. Not sure why it was my favorite, maybe because of how creative and ingenious they were, maybe because it was about kindness? Don’t know – if you’re interested, there is this lovely Youtube video that takes you through the story. As a kid, I also loved the Clifford stories, Frog and Toad and the Bernstein Bears.

One of my favorite summer activities as a kid was when my mom brought us to the Camden County Library by the Echelon Mall (any South Jersey readers out there). She brought us there because it had air conditioning, a luxury we couldn’t quite afford to keep pumping at a comfortable level at the height of summer. We would spend hours there reading and picking out books to take home. Trying to decide what to just read in the comfort of the library and which books deserved to come home was like Sophie’s Choice.

Image courtesy of The Sun Newspapers

My favorite book as a pre-adolescent was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I loved the idea of a solitary girl surviving on her own with nothing but a dog for company. It had adventure and ingenuity. I carried this copy around with me constantly. I remember the day it came to be in this condition. We were down the shore and I was sitting on the dock with my feet in the lagoon and klutzy me dropped it. I screamed as if I’d been shot. My dad thought I was insane… it was “just a book.” Regardless of his flippancy about the book, he managed to fish it out and we blow dried it and it remains on my shelf to this day.

After my parents were divorced, I would spend summers living at my grandmother’s house; she and her husband were avid readers. Their house was stacked with books – it was heaven. My grandmother used to write in the inside cover of each book she read her name and the date she finished it. My grandfather always read the last chapter of a book first in order to determine whether it was worth his time. Our idea of a great summer night was to go out to dinner and then browse Barnes and Noble until they closed. My grandmother would also wake me up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to hit all the local yard sales before anyone else got there; she was hunting antiques and I was hunting books.

As I grew older and got my first job cleaning my neighbor’s deck once a week for their Friday night parties, I finally had a little cash of my own. My favorite place to spend it was at this used bookstore by the Laurel Hill Shoprite, when my dad would go grocery shopping he would drop me there and I’d stock up on 25 cent books. I don’t remember what the place was called but it was a haven for me. That was where I picked up my first proper novel, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I was probably 10 or 11 and I felt like such a sophisticated adult that I was able to read such a book. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites.

My first proper job was at Waldenbooks (anyone remember them?) at that very same Echelon Mall. At 16 years old, I was looking for a little freedom and a lot more time in the company of books. So I would take the bus to the mall every day after school and work my 5 hours in the company of the glorious pages. We were allowed to take books home for free so long as we returned them in sellable condition. I read so much those years and was exposed to so many authors I had never considered before.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

For me reading is about three things: learning, escaping and connection. As the immortal Johnny 5 said, “need more input.” That’s how I’ve always viewed the world, the more I know the better. Every story teaches me something that sticks with me. Escaping is essential for a person like me, I am a bit of an intense person and sometimes even I need a break from me and the world I’ve created for myself. And finally connection, I struggle relating to people and books help me see inside of people who aren’t like me. I am not an empathetic person and I have always seen the world in black and white. Books help me to see the world in Technicolor just like Dorothy.

What does reading mean to you?

~ Dana


In 2019, I lost my beloved dog and best friend of 13 years, Bono.

His loss left a great hole in my life, to distract myself, I threw myself into my favorite hobby: reading.

In August 2019, I started my Instagram bookstagram account “openmypages” and began my journey with being a proper book reviewer.

In 2019, my goal was to read 70 books and I smashed that goal and read 107.

My goal for 2020 was to try to read 120 books and with the pandemic limiting my work travel, I’ve been able to more than double that. I wanted to up my review game so within no time, my Goodreads account was smoking and I had started reviewing on Netgalley. Since then I’ve collected 6000+ followers and partnered with many authors and publishers to review.

I’ve decided for 2021 to transition to hosting my own blog and see how that impacts my review life. I’m excited for this journey and hoping that you all will join me and help make some suggestions about what you’d like to see from openmypages.

Thanks so much for tagging along!