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.”


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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.”

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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. https://youtu.be/grPvFx2dVoI 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

Welcome!

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!

~Dana