When Politicians Become Bullies: Jacob’s New Dress


North Carolina, where I currently live, has had it’s fair share of negative attention over the past year. Most prominently, in relation to the anti-LGBT legislation known as HB2, or “the bathroom bill”.

This week, the spotlight has returned to North Carolina, only this time, it’s in regards to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) school district’s anti-bullying curriculum. My daughter is a student at CMS, a district that has 170 schools and approximately 147,000 students. Therefore, the controversy broiling between our state legislature, the NC Family Values Coalition, and our local school district has a direct impact on my family.

Since November, I have written about #ReadingasResistance, and how books can help guide a person to a new level of political and social activism. How books can be the inspiration that opens our eyes and our minds to new ideas; to people, places, and cultures that are different from us. This is nothing new; in fact, the history of banned books highlights the fear that so many people have when they are confronted with difference. With nonconformity.

Unfortunately, a wonderful children’s picture book, Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, is one of the latest books to be removed from our local school’s curriculum, and therefore, is about to be added to the banned books list. Only this time, it is not a parent or school board that was troubled over a book’s inclusion in a curriculum. It is the state legislators, my lawmakers, that are leading the charge that calls for the removal of Jacob’s New Dress from CMS schools, in the name of “family values” (aka bigotry).


Jacob’s New Dress is a story about a young boy who loves to play dress-up, and likes to wear dresses to school. The book addresses the unique challenges faced by gender nonconforming boys. Jacob’s parents support their son and his clothing choices, but they worry about him getting teased or bullied at school. The story can be an excellent start to a conversation about what is masculine and what is feminine, and the relationship between the clothes we wear and how we are viewed by society.

The book is included as part of the Welcoming Schools program, a project of the Human Rights Committee to help create safe and welcoming schools for ALL children and families. Jacob’s New Dress is included in the lesson plan, “Discussing Gender Stereotyping with Children’s Books”, with a goal of using literature to understand gender roles and recognize gender stereotyping. Discussion questions for CMS students, obtained by the Washington Post, include the following:

  • Why do you think Christopher is upset that Jacob wants to wear a dress? What does he do to hurt Jacob’s feelings during the story?
  • How did the teacher help him? How could other students have helped Jacob?
  • What should Jacob do if this happens again? (teach students to say STOP, move away, tell a trusted adult)

Risqué stuff, indeed.

Complaints about the lesson plan first arose from one teacher within CMS, who has remained anonymous. Despite the fact that the lesson plan is meant to teach children how to handle harassment and bullying, the NC Family Values Coalition and the House Republican Caucus quickly jumped on board with their disdain.

Our society no longer makes judgments about a girl’s sexuality because she prefers to wear jeans and wrestle, so why do we react so strongly to a boy making similar alternative choices? The author’s who wrote Jacob’s New Dress were inspired by their son, a boy who likes to wear things that dont always adhere to traditional gender roles.

You can’t help but find it ironic that a public school district had to step back from using a book about addressing bullying and harassment after being threatened by North Carolina lawmakers. The NC House Republican Caucus, and the NC Family Values Coalition essentially bullied CMS into using different materials for their anti-bullying curriculum.

And guess what? The bullies don’t like that book either. Red: A Crayon’s Story, is about a blue crayon mistakenly labeled red, and was quickly selected to replace Jacob’s New Dress. The latest word is that Red will also be getting more scrutiny from the Republican Caucus. It is amazing that my state legislators have enough time on their hands to micromanage my daughter’s school reading list.

As a parent within CMS, as someone who has read Jacob’s New Dress and looked at the Welcoming Schools curriculum, I LOUDLY and STRONGLY support including more diverse stories in the classroom. And I call on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board and District to put Jacob’s New Dress back into the anti-bullying curriculum so that it will go back into my daughter’s classroom, and back into the classrooms of other CMS students.

And let’s be clear: this anti-bullying curriculum is not about “promoting a transgender agenda”, in the words of Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald. It is about using stories and literature to promote safety and acceptance of vulnerable students. Reading a book that teaches students that all people deserve to be free from bias, discrimination, and harm, is a GOOD THING.

You can listen to Jacob’s New Dress on Youtube by going here.


SHEroes: A Parent-Child Reading List for Women’s History Month

Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg celebrated her 84th birthday. Long a champion of gender equality, it also served as a reminder that I had yet to publish my article for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!

In celebration of the world-changing contributions women have made – and continue to make – throughout history, here is a list of non-fiction selections highlighting these achievements, and companion picture books to read with children covering the same shero or topic. Starting with the birthday woman herself!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justices Pose For "Class Photo"

Getty images.

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made….It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

A trailblazer. She is only the second female justice on the  United States Supreme Court, and is recognized the world over for being one of SCOTUS’s main advocates for advancing women’s rights under the law, including her support for adding an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I am currently in the middle of reading this one right now. It is the first book from RBG since becoming a Justice in 1993; a compilation of her speeches, writings, positive and dissenting arguments from her long career.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy. The first picture book written about RBG and just published last year, M received this book in November through the PJ Library program – a free, monthly book club that sends Jewish-themed books to Jewish children and their families. I Dissent tells the story of Ginsburg’s many disagreements with the motto that “disagreeing does not make you disagreeable!”


Malala Yousafzai


“I tell my story not because it is unique but because it is not. It is the story of many girls. Today, I tell their stories too. I have brought with me some of my sisters from Pakistan, from Nigeria, and from Syria who share this story… This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change. I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice.”

This young woman has inspired the world. A teenage Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala is a Pakistani girl’s education activist who survived an assassination attempt when she was 15. She is an inspiring individual that works tirelessly for equality in education across the world.

I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb. The story of a young girl who risked her life to fight for the right to be educated, her miraculous recovery after an assassination attempt, and her ongoing work in children’s human rights.

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya. Filled with beautiful illustrations, this inspiring biography is perfect for young readers preschool – 2nd grade.

The Founding Mothers

“If we mean to have Heroes, Statemen and Philosophers, we should have learned women.” ~Abigal Adams, in a letter to John Adams, August 14, 1776

Little attention has been given to the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters that stood with the American Founding Fathers. Author Cokie Roberts brings to life the women in history that also helped to shape American when it was just a duckling. It was the women who insisted that the men come together for civilized conversations. It was the women who helped to keep a young, new country from falling into partisan discord.

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. Highlighting the contribution’s to American history by Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, and Martha Washington.

Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies – the picture book based on her book for adults, also highlighting the female patriots during the American Revolution.

Women in Science

“Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.” ~Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave after losing her battle with cervical cancer, yet practically every doctor and scientist knows her name. Taken without her knowledge or permission, Henrietta’s cells live on in scientific laboratories, known as HeLa cells.

This book brings up grave injustices in the scientific community, including the dark history of experimentation on people of color, and the battle over whether or not we control the very cells that make up our body. Despite Henrietta’s cells providing an inspiring breakthrough in medical research, her children and grandchildren live an impoverished life in Baltimore, they have seen no profits or reparations for what was taken from Henrietta without permission.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. Unfortunately, there are no picture books about Henrietta Lacks or HeLa cells, but I highly recommend this book for young readers that highlights the contributions of 50 notable women in STEM fields. Women featured include Wang Zhenyi, one of the greatest minds of the Qing dynasty; Nettie Stevens, who discovered that biological sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes; Edith Clarke, the first female electrical engineer; Alice Ball, who helped to cure leprosy; and Katherine Johnson, who calculated the flight path for the first manned mission on the moon. You may recognize that last name mentioned, since Katherine Johnson is currently getting the attention she so justly deserves as one of the African-American female mathematicians featured in the hit movie and book, Hidden Figures.

Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly. Also available in a Young Reader’s edition.

Happy Women’s History Month! Are there any books you are reading this month to celebrate the contributions that women have made throughout history?

February 2017 OwlCrate Review

My February OwlCrate arrived in the mail a week or so back, and is absolutely incredible! This month ranks up there with the November box, which featured Heartless and a ton of fun Alice in Wonderland goodies! (Sadly, I did not have a chance to review November’s box, with its proximity to M’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and a ton of visiting relatives making my life quite busy and chaotic!).

OwlCrate is a monthly book subscription box that sends you a magical box each month, tailored to a fun theme. Each box includes a newly released, hardback YA novel, and 3-5 bookish items related to the monthly theme.

This month’s theme was so much fun: RUN AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS!!!


Look at the delightful box of goodies just waiting to be uncovered!!This month was packed with awesome-sauce!


I was thrilled about every item that came in this box, which doesn’t always happen (The book pin from the December box wasn’t all that exciting, nor was the desk calendar from the January box).

Pictured above:

  • Page flags from Girl of All Work. I desperately needed page flags, so these arrived at the perfect time! They are fun and whimsical and so much more interesting than the page flags found at Target or Staples.
  • Mini doughnut flavored lip balm from Geek Fire Labs. As soon as I saw this my heart deflated a bit. I have a coconut allergy and can’t use most lip balms, because coconut is in almost ALL of them. Literally, I have one brand I can use and I don’t like it all that much. So I was shocked and incredibly excited to read the ingredients and find…no coconut!! It smells delicious and goes on smooth…I will definitely be buying more of these!
  • Le Cirque de Reves candle by Frostbeard Studio. A blend of caramel popcorn, roasted chestnuts and bonfire…and it smells divine.


  • Tote bag by Evie Bookish, inspired by The Night Circus. I love this bag! I recently lost my favorite tote to take to the library, so yet again, this item came into my life at the perfect time!
  • A notepad made with recycled playing cards, by Attic Journals. I always have a small notepad stashed in my purse, and this is the perfect size for that purpose!


I had a very strong suspicion as to what book would be featured in the February box, and I was right! I can’t wait to read Caraval, and this month’s book came with a signed bookplate, exclusive quote card, and a letter from author Stephanie Garber!



If you’re thinking of buying an OwlCrate subscription, here’s my referral link to get you started! Next month, M will join the party when she receives her first OwlCrate, Jr. box!

What do you think of this month’s OwlCrate? Any guesses as to which book will be in next month’s box? The theme is Sailors, Ships and Seas!

The Sunshine Blogger Award


Thank you to Maxine @ The Rogue Storyteller for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! One of the best parts of blogging is the community of like-minded souls, and it is nice to know that I bring “sunshine” to someone’s day!


  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions set by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and then write 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger award logo in a post/on your site.

1. What fictional universe would you like to live in if given the chance?

That is a tough one. It has to be a fictional universe that doesn’t involve a mass number of people getting killed off, so Game of Thrones is out. I think my choice will have to be fairly standard…the magical world of Harry Potter!! Post-Voldemort, of course.

2. Where are your top three travel destinations?

I will break this into two: places I have been and places I would like to visit. Top three travel destinations that I have already visited:

  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Madras/Chennai, India
  • South Island, New Zealand

Top three places I would like to visit someday:

  • Great Pyramids of Egypt
  • Ireland
  • Turkey

3. Describe your reading habits in as few words as possible.


4. What do you like most about your favorite book?

My favorite book of all-time is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. My favorite books are ones that have changed me. It’s not that I just remember this book with fondness, it fundamentally altered who I am the first time I read it. You know how you happen to come across a book at a certain time in your life, and it is exactly what you need, and in a way, changes everything? The Handmaid’s Tale is that book for me. It influenced me to further research some of the inspiration behind the storyline (her famous quote regarding the tale, “There’s nothing in the book that hasn’t already happened” really struck a chord). That research led to more research, and eventually a study abroad adventure, change in major, and a life-time focus on human rights, especially women’s rights.

5. If you could get a book related tattoo, what would it be? (stealing this from Katy)

It would probably be something like this, from Alice in Wonderland:


6. What book or book series do you think could have been a major hit if it had just a little more oomf?

This one is really hard! Out of books I have read recently, I am going to go with The Blazing Star by Imani Josey. There were so many incredible components, this one came so close in my opinion to being an incredible book, but ultimately falling short.

7. Have you ever read a book in a language different to your native one?

Sadly, I am mono-lingual. I have read many books in translation, if that counts.

8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Yes, I am being cheeky. Never thought I would quote Mitch McConnell. #Resist #Persist

9.  What would you like to see more of in YA fiction?

More Diversity!

10. What kind of music/which artists do you like to listen to when you’re happy?

Sia, Beyonce, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Neko Case, Lady Gaga, U2, Outkast, Florence and the Machine, Pink, Cindi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley

11. If you were a book character, what genre would you most likely be found in? 



Everyone! If you haven’t been tagged for the Sunshine Blogger Award, and want to participate, consider yourself tagged. You ALL bring me sunshine!

My Questions:

  1. What book brings you joy?
  2. If you have a book that you re-read often, what is it?
  3. What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten? Where were you when you ate it?
  4. Where are you from, and what is a common stereotype about your hometown/state/country?
  5. What is you favorite childhood book?
  6. Who is your favorite author, and why?
  7. If a movie comes out that is based on a book, do you have to read the book before going to see the movie?
  8. What is your favorite quote?
  9. What are you most grateful for in your life right now?
  10. Do you write or underline in your books? Take notes?
  11. If you could meet three fictional characters, who would they  be?

Chanukah Book Haul & December OwlCrate Review!

Chanukah wrapped up for the year on January 1, and I have to say, my family was mighty generous this year! We don’t typically buy a lot of gifts during Chanukah, but hubby knew that 2016 was a pretty crappy year for me, and went out of his way to get some of my most highly desired gifts!


Of course, the Tesla that he ordered arrived this month, so maybe they were guilt gifts, BWAHAHAHAHAHA!! Off topic – we LOVE the Tesla!! We have been planning this purchase, and saving up for a few years now, and it is everything we expected and more! And super-easy on road trips, as we just got back from a North Carolina to Florida trip!


By far, my favorite gift this year are the two customized Funko Pops! that hubby bought for M and I. Made by Mason Bartlett, from his Etsy shop FocoCustom, these were such an amazing and thoughtful gift, that look just like us! The one on the left is M, complete with blue hair (which has faded out since the fall), her favorite Paris t-shirt, her Gizmo watch, and the kitty ears headband she wears all the time! I love that my Pop! has the sunglasses that always hang out on the top of my head, a scarf that I often wear, and even my Fitbit!

M bought me the Bernie Sanders Funko Pop!, and he has already had a rousing debate with the Hillary Pop! M received for her birthday.


If we can’t make it to NYC to see the musical anytime soon, then this is the next best thing! Yay for receiving a gift off of my TTT Chanukah Wish list post!


So much fun in one picture!

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
  • From M, a bunch of Forest Fellows Iwako erasers, and the school supplies eraser set. I collect these, and her picks are a great addition to my collection! Can you find the gray koala hanging out in the background?
  • The coveted clothbound Game of Thrones set, another gift on my TTT wish list post!
  • HappyHelloCo bookmarks, off of another one of my bookworm gift lists!

I also received a Sur La Table gift card from my parents, which will be used to replace our dying toaster oven! I am very thankful for the generosity of my family this year.

December OwlCrate Review

The December OwlCrate theme was EPIC!, and I wasn’t sure what to expect other than at least one HP item.


Our Mensch on the Bench was very excited to see what was inside. (Mr. Mensch snuck into our house this year unbeknownst to me…ahem…thanks hubby and M). I’m still not a fan of the whole Elf on Shelf/Mensch on the Bench thing, but he is kinda cute.

I have to say, this is probably my least favorite of the three Owlcrate boxes that I have received so far, but it still had some great things in it to make the purchase worth it!


Seeing a HP Mystery Mini figure was definitely exciting! We all had fun guessing which one it would be…Voldemort, Hermione, or Hagrid. And the winner was M, with her guess of…



Despite the mixed reviews I have seen, I am quite excited about this month’s book selection, Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst, especially since it was already on my TBR list for #DiversityBingo2017!


Other items in the OwlCrate included:

  • Lord of the Rings pin, designed by Jane Mount (Ideal Bookshelf).
  • Game of Thrones coasters, a perfect accompaniment to my GoT book set! Designed by Dark Horse Comics.
  • Sticker quote inspired by The Darker Shade of Magic, designed by Miss Phi. I love this one!
  • Chronicles of Narnia greeting card by Susanne Draws. I’m not a Chronicles of Narnia fan, so I feel a bit meh on this one. However, the design is quite lovely!

OwlCrate is a monthly YA box subscription. You can find out more by visiting OwlCrate. The January Box theme is “Classic Remix”.


Book Review – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova


Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA Fantasy, Paranormal, Witches

Boy, do I hope that Labyrinth Lost is the first of a series, because I loved this book! I was immediately pulled in to this novel when I first read the description and realized it contained many of my favorite elements: Brujas and brujos (witchcraft); a coming-of-age Deathday celebration that takes its inspiration from Dios de los Muertes and Santeria; and a journey into an Underworld-type land called Los Lagos. And a glossary. I absolutely love when novels include glossaries!!

The main character, Alex, is a teenage bruja that lives in Brooklyn with her mother and two sisters. She does not want the magic that runs in her blood, that ties her to her family and ancestors. We meet Alex shortly before her Deathday celebration. Along the lines of a bat mitzvah, but fictional, a teen’s Deathday is a special family celebration where the ancestors give their blessing to the brujo/a, which allows their magic to grow and reach its full potential.

Alex, however, fears her power, and in a hasty decision, uses a canto to try to revoke her magic and give it back to the Deos (Gods). That plan backfires, terribly, and Alex embarks on a journey into Los Lagos to try and correct the terrible mistake that she made. She is accompanied by Nova, a young mysterious brujo, and her best friend, Rishi.

“We all get scared and want to turn away, but it isn’t always strength that makes you stay. Strength is also making the decision to change your destiny.”

Overall, the story works really well. One of my favorite things about the story was the world of Los Lagos, an ethereal world in another dimension. Córdova did an excellent job with both the plot and the world-building, and I really hope that Los Lagos makes another appearance in a future book! Alex and her companion, the brujo Nova, jump through a portal early on in the novel in an effort to save Alex’s family. The reader is literally dropped into a world filled with duendes, fairies from the Kingom of Adas, and the evil Devourer, a bruja gone bad, who has been sucking up power from the land through the Tree of Souls.

I also love the cast of characters, who are mostly Latinx. Most of the characters – with the exception of Rishi, who is Indian – are Latinx, and the magical creatures that fill the pages of Labyrinth Lost are influenced by Latin American culture and mythology. For the most part, all of the characters are well-developed, with two exceptions: Alex’s mother, and Rishi. I was surprised when I finished the novel and realized I knew almost as little about Rishi as I did at the beginning. Which to me is an oversight, since she is one of the love interests in the story. My favorite character was definitely Alex’s deceased Aunt Rosaria, and I knew she was going to play a larger role than one would imagine from a deceased relative from the opening sentence:

“The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.”

Another aspect about Labyrinth Lost that I really appreciated: respectful bisexual representation. I have to admit I began to worry when the love triangle first began to make an appearance, with the fear that we were headed down a rabbit hole, and Rishi would be turned into another token LGBT character that gets left in the dust for the “true” love interest. That was absolutely not the case! The romance was also very understated, which I appreciate. I am not a big fan of the romance genre, and fantasy books that tread to far into that department aren’t usually my cup of tea.

With all of these wonderful elements, why did I not give it 5 stars? It comes quite close, but one problematic aspect brings it down a notch in my book. It always bothers me when an author misuses mental illness terms in an ableist manner, and I caught at least two examples of ableism in Labyrinth Lost. The first is the frequent use of “crazy”, as in “Crazy Uncle Julio”. The second, is this:

“I’ve never seen a boy with such bipolar eyes, let alone a permanent wrinkle between his brows, like he spends more time frowning than anything else.”

What, exactly, are bipolar eyes? In my opinion, this is definitely not an acceptable description, and it is used multiple times do describe Nova’s eyes. Frankly, I was surprised that a book that as diverse as this one would use such harmful word choice.

Overall, I definitely recommend Labyrinth Lost to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, especially stories rich in witchcraft and mythology. The ending seemed to leave an opening for a sequel, which I would read in a hearbeat!

Rating: 4.5/5.







ARC Book Review – The Blazing Star by Imani Josey


Title: The Blazing Star
Author:  Imani Josey
Publisher:  Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Release Date: 6 December, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Book Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.


Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

The Blazing Star contains so many incredibly awesome components: time travel to Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology, a diverse cast of PoC characters, strong female protagonists, and a gorgeous, breath-taking book cover. I know, I know, a book cover in no way represents the quality of writing inside of a book, but LOOK AT IT. I bow down at the feet of the artist who designed it, because I love the cover THAT much.

Much of the story revolves around the twinning, or lack of twinning, going on between Portia and Alex, as they try to find out why they were pulled back in time into ancient Egypt, and how they can get home. It’s a fun, original mash-up of fantasy, Egyptian mythology, and magic. Imani Josey truly did an amazing job of making me, the reader, feel as if I was back in Ancient Egypt with the girls. What makes the time travel plot work so well is the characters that Portia, Alex, and Selene meet. My favorites were definitely the Priestesses of the Temple of Isis: High Priestess Weret, Sikara, and Tasherit. The Prince of Egypt was exasperating.

The first half really held my attention, and did a moderately successful job of setting up the world and mythology that we learn about as the novel progresses. However, sadly, the story begins to lose its way in the second half, and in my opinion, starts to fall apart a teeny tiny bit. It became harder and harder to keep track of the timeline, and all the characters that come in and out of the story. The plot advances, but there are definitely some holes and gaps, and character’s actions that don’t make a lot of sense, which started driving me batty about 2/3 of the way through the book.

The ending is unresolved and definitely leaves room for a sequel, but also had me feeling as this was a case of lost potential. I really, really wanted to love The Blazing Star, but ultimately, it fell a bit short.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

I will be taking a mini-hiatus

Last night was rough. This morning is worse. Six hours of working the polls, attending a Democratic Watch Party that started going south very quickly, and hours of waiting…till 2…3am in the morning. With very few hours of sleep in between the time I went to bed and when I had to get up, I am drained. I am disheartened.

I am heartbroken, but I am not shocked.

I had to look into my daughter’s eyes this morning when she woke up, and give her the bad news. The first question out of her mouth, before she even opened her eyes was, “Who won?”

If she would have opened her eyes first, she would have seen the answer clearly written on my face.

This morning was rough. My husband and daughter our Jewish, and I am agnostic; our friends are as diverse as our planet. Knowing that the America I live in elected a person like Donald Trump is horrifying. Knowing that myself, my daughter and husband, and the majority of my friends, do not fit into the narrow worldview of his most ardent supporters is scary.

So I need a small break. Some time to process, to come to terms with where do we go from here. How I can help my daughter…my family…my friends…feel safe for the next four years.

Please don’t construe my melancholy, it is not caused by an election not going my way. It stems from a belief long-held that Americans generally care for one another, and look out for each other. That we, as a whole, look out for those who have less, or are treated as less. I thought that we were better than this.

It is going to take some time for me to cope with a fundamental shaking of that core belief.

I understand that not all of you feel the same way I do. Difference is the spice of life, and I respect that. Please respect my need for some meditative solitude right now.

Until then, here is one of my favorite poems by the esteemed Maya Angelou. You can watch her reciting it here. I have come back to this poem so many times in my life (and too many time to count in 2016 alone), and it always helps to give me the strength to deal with setbacks.

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.


Book Review – The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad


Title: The Bookseller of Kabul

Author: Asne Seierstad

Genre: Non-fiction

The Bookseller of Kabul, a nonfiction work written in literary form, has been out now for more than a decade, and has had its fair share of controversy. Seierstad spent six months living with the Khan family in Kabul, Afghanistan (their name has been changed), not long after the Taliban had been driven out.

Despite the title, the dominant theme of the book is the lack of freedom and autonomy for the women in Sultan Khan’s family. The image presented of Sultan Khan is of a money-hungry businessman who makes his young sons work 12-hour days in his bookshops instead of going to school. He is portrayed as an autocratic patriarch of the family that virtually enslaves his 19-year old sister, and marries a 16-year old girl, bringing her into the family as a second wife.

The picture painted by Asne Seierstad in The Bookseller of Kabul is not a pretty one. And it doesn’t take long for her to be sued by Sultan Khan, whose real name is Shah Muhammad Rais.

As a reader, I can not vouch for the accuracy of the author. I do not know if what she writes is an exaggerated portrayal, dramatized by an author and publicist to appeal to Western audiences…or cold, hard facts about one family in a country that has seen so much devastation and destruction over the last few decades.

The sources for all of the vignettes in The Bookseller of Kabul come primarily from three family members who speak English. Sultan Khan, the patriarch and esteemed bookseller of Kabul; his eldest son Mansur, and Khan’s youngest sister, Leila.

Leila. Out of all the family members, my heart hurts the most for Leila. If what I read was accurate, she is a brave woman for speaking so openly and honestly about her treatment in the Khan household.

Leila tosses her head and places the heavy rice pot over the Primus….Leila is a good cook. She is good at most things. That is why she is made to do everything. During meals she usually sits in the corner by the door and leaps up if anyone needs anything, or fills up the plates. When she has seen to everyone else, she fills her plate with the remains, some fatty rice and cooked beans.

She has been brought up to serve, and she has become a servant, ordered around by everyone. With every new order, respect for her diminishes. If anyone is in a bad mood, Leila suffers. A spot that has not come off a sweater, meat that has been badly cooked; there are many things one can think of when one needs someone to vent one’s wrath on.

Leila would dearly love a bit of independence, and wants to work as an English teacher in one of the recently re-opened schools. It is a long, arduous, up-hill battle, trying to reach that goal.

Another family member that breaks the reader’s heart is Aimal, Sultan’s youngest son. He is twelve years old…and works twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Sultan Khan did not bother to register him when the school’s reopened after the New Year’s Celebrations at the spring equinox.

Aimal became increasingly unwell and unhappy. His face turned pale and his skin sallow. His young body stooped and lost its resilience. They called him “the sad boy”. When he returned home he fought and bickered with his brothers, the only way to vent pent-up energy. He regarded his cousin Fazil with envy. He had gotten into Esteqlal, a school supported by the French government. Fazil came home with exercise books, pencils, ruler, compass, pencil sharpener, mud all up his trousers, and masses of funny stories.

One of the most powerful vignettes was a chapter called “Billowing, Fluttering, Winding”, about a visit to the bazaar by three of the women. Although Seierstad has written herself out of the story, it is obvious that she witnessed this first-hand, and like the three family members, was also wearing a burka. I thought her descriptions of the experience were one of the best in the book.

Sultan Khan worked tirelessly to save thousands of books from destruction over the years of civil war and Taliban rule. Did he do it to preserve Afghan literary culture and history, or solely as a future money-making venture? Khan is an intellectual, yet won’t let some of his children attend school. He risks his life to protect Afghan literature, but also makes rash, spiteful decisions to protect his pride. Contradictions are a part of life, and Sultan Khan certainly is not an exception, at least through the eyes of Asne Seierstad.

Seierstad eventually won the lawsuit against her on appeal, and the Norwegian Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so the appeal ruling currently stands.

The April morning when ex-king Zahir Shah set foot on Afghan soil, after thirty years in exile, she hung up her burka for good and told herself she would never again use the stinking thing. Sonya and Sharifa followed suit. It was easy for Sharifa; she had lived most of her adult life with her face uncovered. It was worse for Sonya. She had lived under the burka all her life and she hung back. In the end it was Sultan who forbade her to use it. “I don’t want a prehistoric wife; you are the wife of a liberal man, not a fundamentalist.”

In many ways, Sultan was a liberal. When he was in Iran he bought Sonya Western clothes. He often referred to the burka as an oppressive cage, and he was pleased that the new government included female ministers. In his heart he wanted Afghanistan to be a modern country, and he talked warmly about the emancipation of women. But at home he remained the authoritarian patriarch. When it came to ruling his family, Sultan had only one model: his own father.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

OwlCrate – October 2016 Review

My first OwlCrate arrived this week! I was so excited to find it sitting sweetly on my front porch two days ago.


OwlCrate is a YA monthly book subscription box that sends newly published YA novels and assorted goodies tied in to each month’s theme. Past themes include Diversity, Steampunk, and Dystopia. The October 2016 theme was ONCE UPON A DREAM, and it was certainly filled with dreamy, wonderful things!

Do not read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled as to the contents in October’s box!


The first thing you see when you open the box is this cute postcard that gives you a hint as to which fairy tales will be referenced this month. The once upon a time theme comes to life with items that reference Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz.

There are so many wonderful items in this box, so I have absolutely no remorse whatsoever over splurging on a subscription box! The folks behind Owlcrate did an excellent job of curating quality items that fit in well with the monthly theme.


Here’s what this box contained:

  • The first thing I picked up was an adorable beanie from Whosits & Whatsits, inspired by the Lost Boys of Neverland! I have a small head, so it is a tiny bit too big, but not so much that I won’t wear it. The Neverland beanie is super, super cute, and would make the perfect accessory for the daily walks to and from M’s school. Added bonus: every time I look at it, the Lost Boys song by Ruth B pops into my head. I am a lost boy from Neverland, usually hanging out with Peter Pan….
  • A gorgeous bracelet by The Geeky Cauldron, exclusive to Owlcrate! Inspired by Sleeping Beauty, it has a small spinning wheel charm, and a pendant that says Once Upon A Dream.
  • Wizard of Oz passport notebook from The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild. There are lots of cute details, including a passport photo page on the front inside cover, and a little footnote in the back, “Click your heels together to go home. Only valid when wearing ruby slippers.” How adorable is that? It’s the perfect size to jot down book recommendations – or a grocery list – when you are out and about.
  • A fabric button bookmark from My Heart My Tribe. Different fabrics and styles were sent out, unfortunately I received a pastel pink that is probably my least-favorite color, ever. Oh, well, you can’t win them all! I can never have too many bookmarks, so it will still be used!
  • Fun odds and ends: A button inspired by this month’s theme – it shows the spinning wheel from the postcard – and a bookmark advertising The New World Series by Jennifer WIlson.



  • Finally, but most importantly, is the book included in this month’s box! Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter came with a signed bookplate, note from the author, and temporary tattoo. An urban-fantasy take on the Russian folk tale “Vassilissa the Beautiful”, it sounds like a very interesting read!

Vassa in The Night by Sarah Porter

Published by Tor Teen

Genre: YA fantasy

Release date: September 20, 2016

Book Blurb:

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair… 

Next month’s OwlCrate…has a Wonderland theme! I am biting my nails in excitement, as it happens to coincide with the release of Heartless by Marissa Meyer!! I don’t know if that is the book or not, but whatever book is included is going to have an EXCLUSIVE Limited Edition cover!! Oh, please, please be Heartless!!

If you would like to give OwlCrate a try, please use my Referral link here!

Have you ever tried OwlCrate, or another book subscription service? What did you think? Have you read Vassa in the Night?