Review: Binti

“But he read my astrolabe as fast as my father, which both impressed and scared me.” page 14

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.
Tom Doherty Associates, Tor, New York, 2015.
Adult sci-fi novella, 96 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTE: This is the first book in the Binti trilogy.

Binti is one of the Himba people, noted for their mathematical ability, never leaving their homeland, and for the clay mixture that they use for their skin and hair.  She is also the first Himba ever accepted into the home of galactic intellectualism, Oozma University, and she’s decided to attend.

Binti cover
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

This relatively short book covers only the journey, although she speaks about her home life and decision to apply, so we get a small taste of what her world was before this momentous journey.

If you have even the mildest interest in diverse speculative fiction, I’m sure you’ve already heard of Nnedi Okorafor.  The Binti trilogy is especially well-known as it’s won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.  The paperback copy I picked up was the 17th printing of a book less than 4 years old.  So between the critical acclaim and popular interest, you can probably guess this is a well liked book.

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Review: In a Rocket Made of Ice

“And I think, what must it be like to be raised by well-meaning strangers who may love you but who do not speak your language, or know who you are, or have anything but an outsider’s intellectualized and generalized understanding of your culture and people, and of your life for that matter.” page 76

In a Rocket Made of Ice: the Story of Wat Opot, a Visionary Community for Children Growing Up with AIDS by Gail Gutradt.
My edition Vintage Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2015 (originally published 2013).
Nonfiction/memoir, 322 pages.
Not leveled.

Traveling retiree Gail Gutradt made a chance connection that sent her to volunteer in this community with an initial five-month commitment.  The experience was so moving that she returns again and again, finding a deep love for Cambodia and a personal passion for improving the lives of children affected by HIV/AIDs.

In a Rocket Made of Ice cover resized
In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt.

Notice I say “children affected by”, not “children with”, because that’s one of the interesting parts about Wat Opot – the community is open to any children and many adults whose lives have been affected, whether they themselves are positive, a sibling or parent is, or if one or both parents have died from AIDs.  That’s an important aspect of this community surviving in Cambodia, where family connections are crucial – families can stay together, dying parents can know that their children are well cared for and gently transition them, and siblings are not separated based on HIV status.

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How I Get Books: Libraries

In this first installment of How I Get Books, I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the different libraries in my life.

There are four main types of libraries that I get books from.  Public libraries, the university library, the church library, and school libraries.

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Review: The Magic Paintbrush

“When Steve grasped the painting, it tingled against his fingertips. He felt as if he had rubbed his shoes fast over a carpet.” p. 19

The Magic Paintbrush by Laurence Yep, illustrated by Suling Wang.
HarperTrophy, HarperCollins, New York, 2000.
Historical fantasy, 90 pages.
Lexile:  530L  .
AR Level:  3.8 (worth 2.0 points)  .

Eight-year-old Steve’s parents and all of his belongings are gone after a tragic fire, and now he shares a single room in Chinatown with his grandfather and Uncle Fong (no relation but a childhood friend of Grandfather’s).  They are so poor that after his paintbrush split in art class, he’s afraid to go home and tell his Grandfather, knowing that a new one is not possible.

The Magic Paintbrush by Laurence Yep cover resized
The Magic Paintbrush by Laurence Yep, illustrated by Suling Wang.

For a book with magic in the title, this book takes a while to get to the fantasy part.  The first chapters are all about establishing the setting – early 1960s San Francisco – and characters.  The tale of a magic paintbrush given to a poor boy who uses it to spread happiness is a Chinese story that has been retold many times, mostly in picture books.  Yep has a unique historical Chinese-American spin to his version though.

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New Series: How I Get Books

This is something of a departure from the normal content of this blog.  I read about 200 books per year (some are rereads, children’s books, or graphic novels), and while I do buy a LOT of books, that’s not the only way I get books.  Talking with other book bloggers, it seemed that there was mild interest in some of my techniques for finding different titles, whether to purchase or just to read.

So I’ll be doing a series of posts called “How I Get Books” throughout 2020.  Feel free to skip over them if you are not interested, or leave a comment if you want to discuss further.  As posts go up, I’ll be linking them here on this post.  Hopefully one of these posts will give you an idea or help you find a book you’ve been looking for!

Review: Down Came the Rain

“Chris and I were suddenly alone with a brand-new baby, and we weren’t sure what to do. We stared at each other for a while and then tried to settle in.” page 61

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields.
Hyperion, New York, 2005.
Memoir, 226 pages.
Not leveled.

Actress and model Brooke Shields writes a very personal story about her experiences with infertility, postpartum depression, and more.

Down Came the Rain resized

This is not your typical celebrity memoir.  The few references to famous people or media are because they are directly relevant to Shields’ life and her theme.  The book actually does not start with postpartum depression.  It starts with her long and difficult journey through infertility and miscarriage and her father’s death.

After chasing the dream of motherhood for so many years, Shields was originally loath to admit that anything was wrong, even as she was spiraling into darkness.  She also doesn’t seem to have had the best support or encouragement from the medical team – some members were good but her birthing experience was scary and discouraging.

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Some Thoughts on Usborne

Later, a post will go up about a particular Usborne book I’ve decided to review.  But before that goes live, I thought readers of this blog might benefit from a brief background on Usborne.  In the USA at least (it might differ elsewhere), Usborne is a direct-sales company focusing on children’s books and related items such as puzzles, notebooks, etc.  They were originally known among teachers for having long lists of child-friendly internet links to back up every book.  Of course, with the nature of the internet getting better known and the passage of time, those printed lists no longer had the same value, and they are not a major part of Usborne’s marketing these days.

Usborne has a long history of being sold through company representatives, which is part of why I haven’t reviewed too many of their books.  However, it’s now possible to purchase through their website (where you will be assigned a consultant), buy select titles new through bookstores, find almost any title used, or buy them through Amazon (although I think those purchases are not endorsed by the company).  Basically, Usborne has gained enough traction that it’s possible to get the more popular titles even without going to a sales party or knowing a consultant.

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Review: Little Book of Life Hacks

“Getting your most important (or tedious) task out of the way will create a powerful momentum for the rest of your day.” page 187

The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful by Yumi Sakugawa.
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.
Not leveled.

An illustrated guide to a wide variety of diys, life-hacks, how-tos, and helpful tips.

Little Book of Life Hacks resized

It seems to be a pattern that I discover famous people and trends through reading.  This was a random pick at the craft store – however not chosen to be diverse (like my Target Picks), just a book I grabbed on a whim because the artwork was so cute.

The cover is really appealing although it doesn’t photograph well.  The gold elements are shiny and there is a lot of texture.  This book is easy to pick up, read a few pages, and put down, although I read through it traditionally the first time.  One element I disliked, is that while there are page numbers, only about half of the pages are numbered.  So it was difficult to refer to a specific page.

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