Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!! 🎄🎅🏼🎁

Hope Santa has treated everyone well! And to all those not celebrating… Happy Friday!


“Above and behind them the Dipper turned on its great handle as if to pour night itself out onto the dreaming continent and each of its seven stars gleamed from between the fitful passing clouds.”


News of the World was one of my favorite reads in 2016. It’s beautifully written story about a piece of history that I was completely unaware of. Captain Kidd travels from town to town to read the news so that folks who can’t read or afford a paper (which is most people), can understand the headlines of the time. His life changes when he is asked to transport a young orphan with a troubled past to her relatives.

It’s a fabulous book and I’m hoping the movie will be as well, I mean Tom Hanks can do no wrong in my eyes, so I’m sure it will be!

Anyone else excited for this movie release today?

~ Dana

REVIEW: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

“He said, ‘Without stories, we’re all just lonely islands.

‘Stories let us see and hear and feel what someone else does,’ she explained. ‘They build bridges to the other islands. That’s why stories are so important. They create true empathy.'”

First off, let me start by saying that I love a Christmas Carol. This modern YA retelling is everything I wanted it to be. Holly Chase is a Scrooge and when the ghosts try to save her, they fail. The penalty for her unchanged ways is death and an assignment as one of the ghosts. There she needs to work each year to help other Scrooge’s see the error of their ways. She and the other ghosts analyze the potential Scrooge’s life for characters that mimic the ones from the original story (Marley, Fezziwig, Cratchit etc).

I thought the idea was a really ingenious way to bring a classic story into current relevance. Holly was a rich, selfish millennial who began to see the error of her ways as she starts to analyze another Scrooge’s behavior. When she falls for this Scrooge, she wants to save him more than herself and thus we have a story within a story.

I thought this was really well done and was exactly what I was hoping for when I chose my Christmas week reads.

What character from the Christmas Carol do you identify with the most?

~ Dana

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