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Everything posted by Kasei

  1. Life-changing...

    I was just thinking: with all the marvelous books out there it would be impossible to read even a small portion of them in a lifetime, even if one devoted their entire life to reading. I sometimes feel that by spending my time on books that are not so great that I lose a chance to read another fantastic book that could've really impacted me. So my question is this; is there a book out there that has really stayed with you? One that has changed the way you see the world, even if in a small way? A great book that you think it a crime to go through life without ever having read? Or maybe one that you think made you into a different person than you would've been if you hadn't read it. Whatever the case, I'd love to hear what those books are. I'm not necessarily looking for self-help books or anything, but definitely don't leave out a non-fiction book that opened your eyes to something if that's the case. I know there are so many brilliantly written classics out there, but if you had to chose a few that were crucial to read, what would they be?
  2. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Sooooo. Long time no see everyone! I haven't been particularly active here since '07 due to life, work, education pursuits, etc...however! Now that my life has settled into a semblance of normalcy I feel prepared to pick up where I left off and rejoin my favorite old online community! Seriously, you guys rock and are so into talking about reading, its fantastic. <3 Figured I'd start things off light with a couple of lists and go from there--no goals yet, but maybe over the summer when I have a bit more time. If anyone out there has any suggestions, sling 'em my way! Oh, and you will likely see a lot of kid's books/YA novels just because I teach at an elementary school and my classroom is connected to the library...so I tend to wander in there and browse. Currently Reading: *The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Sitting on the shelf in Que to be Read: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien Dracula by Bram Stoker Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie Beowulf Aesop's Fables by Aesop Would Like to Read but do not currently have in possession: Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss London by Edward Rutherfurd She Who Remembers by Linda Lay Shuler Cretaceous sea: A novel of time travel by Will Hubbel Ice Hunt by James Rollins Raptor by Paul Zindel Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas J. Preston West of Eden by Harry Harrison The Land that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Have Read since January 2011: Fatalis by Jeff Rovin Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster *The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman[review] Still Life with Rice by Helie Lee [review] Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake [review] *Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake [review] Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake [review] Hope for Animals and Their World by Jane Goodall Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins[review] Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins[review] No One Loved Gorillas More: Dian Fossey Letters from the Mist by Camilla De La Bedoyere [review] Elephant Memories by Cynthia J. Moss [review] *The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (review) *Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (review) A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the First by Lemony Snickett Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen *Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey **An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina --- Key: * = recommend X = I didn't care for the book All unmarked books mean that I enjoyed the read My reviews can be interpreted as such: 0: Paperweight 1: Could've done without reading this one, hardly any redeeming qualities 2: A "meh" book--unmemorable/had a lot of problems I couldn't read around 3: Pretty okay. You won't die if you miss it, but not awful. 4: Quite enjoyable. 5: You absolutely should read this. It reeks of awesome.(you may assume that any title with ** by it gets this rating from me)
  3. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    The Wal-Mart Effect Rating: 5/5 Spoilers: I don't think it would be possible for me to spoil this completely factual book "Wal-Mart isn't subject to the market forces because its creating them." A really interesting read that actually sheds a lot of light onto what Wal-Mart is and does: everything from its humble beginnings to its surprising impact on the global economy (yes I did say global). The best part about this book though is that it really breaks down all of the complicated economic jargon into understandable pieces that are accessible to ignorant schmucks like me. And you know, it actually presents Wal-Mart's case from both sides. I still don't shop there, but now I know why they are the way they are and that they definitely only care about always bringing their customers the lowest price. Always. Very interesting read. It was nice to see that someone has taken the time to compile and interpret what little is actually publicly known about Wal-Mart (they are an amazingly secretive company: even their suppliers won't talk) and then gone and done their own interviews and research to seek out information. And the ways Wal-Mart effects people, companies, and even countries that don't do business with them is shocking. I definitely recommend this book to anyone living in a country where Wal-Marts exist.
  4. Has anyone read...?

    Has anyone actually completely read War and Peace by Tolstoy? I was considering adding it to my summer reading list (no way I'd have time for it right now) but I wanted to see if it was really worth my time.
  5. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Still Life With Rice Rating: 4/5 Spoilers: No Speaking as someone who knows very little about world politics and goings-on (a characteristic I always feel guilty about because I am a teacher and feel I should be both knowledgeable and up-to-date on such things) this was a very interesting read. It covers the story of the writer's Korean grandmother who grew up under the Japanese colonial period and lived through the war that divided her country. Reading about historic events as told through the eyes of someone who lived them is always more digestible and memorable for me than reading straight facts. I'm sure a few of you are the same. The story is very interesting and I love the perspective and insight into Hongyong Baek's mind. My only gripe is that sometimes you can never be for certain how much is authentic fact and how much the author is making up--at least insofar as her grandmother's thoughts and actions are concerned. The actual historic timeframes seem to match up, but the authoress gets so descriptive at times about what is going through her grandmother's mind that I tend to think of her more as a character in a story and less of an actual person. Still, this does not detract considerably from the telling of the story. While Helie Lee is no poet with words, what her grandmother is going through in the story is more than gripping enough to keep you reading, especially once she transcends childhood. If you've ever wanted to know more about how Korea got into its current predicament and don't mind a bit of historic non/fiction, then this is a book for you. I hear the authoress recently penned a sequel that describes events that occurred after the publishing of Still Life With Rice that involves a harrowing rescue of family members from North Korea a few years ago, so if you like this book checking out the second might be a good idea since Still Life With Rice leaves you with a bit of a cliffhanger.
  6. Gonna go do a call-back to the 90s and recommend Fresh Prince of Bel Air--love that show and it always makes me laugh. A more recent show I enjoyed immensely was Firefly. Very clever dialogue and interesting scenario, though it is definitely not a sit com and more of a sci-fi drama. If you're feeling adventurous you might check it out, who knows? Perhaps you'd like it.
  7. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    You know, I actually JUST watched it on Youtube and it was rather enjoyable (although JRM's portrayal of Steerpike was a great deal more sympathetic than the book portrayal) albeit a bit more romantic than the books were. Fun stuff though, I loved seeing all of my favorite characters and scenes acted out.
  8. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Titus Alone Rating: 3/5 Spoilers: Nope I went into this novel knowing that it was reputedly the worst of the bunch due to the author's ailing health, and for the most part everyone is right. The story is a bit disjointed and reminded me a lot of the sort of random-occurrences shtick of The Phantom Tollbooth. Things seem to happen for little reason but the entire time you get the feeling that everything is very symbolic. If not accessibly symbolic to the rest of us then at the very least, personally symbolic for Mr. Peake. I tried to read the book quickly so that I could get that lasting-impression quality that one gets a few weeks after finishing a book. You know what I mean? That feeling when you don't really remember the exact details of what happened but you can recall the overall gist or point of the story? That's what I was aiming for. I attempted this mostly because I knew that it was an incomplete novel and wanted to see if I could grasp what Mervyn Peake might've been going for had he been of mind to bring it to life the way he envisioned. I didn't really read it piece-by-piece so much as letting my eyes fly over the paragraphs and dialogue searching for the big picture--and mostly I think I got there. The book seems to be the first of many adventures that follow Titus in his life outside of Gormenghast. There are a lot of new characters introduced, many of which I feel Mr. Peake would've done more with in subsequent books had he been able to continue. Nevertheless, there was definitely an insane sort of feel to the book which I find particularly potent considering the author's state during its formulation...indeed madness is the book's big question and the source of Titus' woes in this read. Still, things being so disjointed and unfleshed out (many chapters were, literally, half a page in length leaving one with the distinct impression that the author intended to go back and flesh out the idea of the section) makes it hard for me to give it above a 3. It is a novelty for any Gormenghast fan just to say they've read it, but I doubt I'll be perusing its pages again.
  9. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Not a bad little read, definitely different: glad I could help point you in its direction.
  10. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Gormenghast Rating: 5/5 Spoilers: Not really I gotta say, for every page that drug on during the reading of Titus Groan there was a page that I inhaled in Gormenghast. SUCH a fast read, especially compared to its predecessor. At times I almost felt it was as if another person entirely had been writing the novel. The style was still there but there was so much happening in this book that I looked forward with equal enthusiasm to both what would happen AND what Peake would say next. Great novel and I give it five out of five for what it was trying to accomplish and how far it succeeded. All of the characters I loved to despise were present and I became quite frightened at the pace at which many of them were killed off--and how suddenly! That was one thing I never got over; not only how many characters died, but how unprepared I was for their deaths--often at times when it seemed something pivotal was about to happen for them. And then two lines later they were dead. It definitely kept me on edge (in the good way) throughout the read. If you are thinking about reading this trilogy I recommend it, despite not having yet opened up the third one: If anything, its worth getting through Titus Groan just to make it to book 2. I have read that Mr. Peake unfortunately succumed to dementia during the writing of the third novel, Titus Alone, and that it was never actually completed--in fact most of it just looks like an un-fleshed-out outline--so I am interested to see how it reads out.
  11. What Inspired Your User Name?

    My real name is Kasey...I just did a vowel swap. Because I'm just that creative. Okay, if you want to get technical its a screen name I've used since middle school (age 13) because I was, once upon a time, very interested in Japanese animation and in swapping the vowels my name became the Japanese word for Mars. I've always wanted to be the first person to live on Mars so the name seemed appropriate. It was also the name I gave to the main character of many stories I would write back in those days. A character who was, not surprisingly, a virtual replica of myself at whatever age I happened to be at the time of writing. Kind of an embarrassingly nerdy story, actually.
  12. These are so interesting to read! Its amazing how you can see so much different style, setting, and character in just a few sentences. "I was colder than ice. I have had no food. I have had no sleep." Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
  13. Do you use your local library...?

    Oh my goodness yes--I'm a regular at our City's Public Library. Not only do they have a fantastic selection, but they are on a network with all the other libraries in a 30 mile radius meaning I can request books from other cities and have them within a few days. I can only remember one time when the book I was looking for wasn't in the system: so I asked them to order it and they did! Requests and renewals are free, the only thing you pay for is the $0.50 membership card and any overdue fines (which at $0.10 a day are never steep). I love my library! Have 6 books checked out from them right now.
  14. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Titus Groan Rating: 4/5 Spoilers: No This book was such a step out of the norm for me, it was very refreshing. I usually don't read a lot of "literature" in the classical sense. Generally for lack of time rather than desire (it is still a goal of mine to spend a summer devouring classics left and right). Part of the reason I may have enjoyed it so much is that there is just something about the way books published before the 70s were written that in itself helps you to feel transported to another place. Were I to rate this book on plot alone it would've gotten a 2 at best: there just simply isn't a lot that actually happens in this book. However, you can see from the given score that there is something more at work within the pages of Titus Groan. This book has so much to offer in the way of writing style. The characterization alone practically carries the book and plot becomes superfluous--I have never read about such ridiculously hateable-yet-lovable characters. The way Mervyn Peake has written this novel requires one to read very, very slowly. For the most part you can't simply breeze through the pages and get the overall gist--you have to almost absorb the sentences for they read like poetry. And he has the archetypal subtle British humor thing going; I found myself chuckling constantly at the little jokes he would throw into a character description or scenario--the sheer irony and often idiocy of a lot of the goings-on kept me hungering for more words; which I kept thinking of as odd because usually I can't put a book down for want of finding out what happens next, but here I couldn't put it down due to my desire to observe how Mr. Peake would twist words around. The only thing that keeps this book from a 5 is that while the world and writing themselves have so much character, it is still the slow pace of the book that can, at times, be very wearying. For instance, I could only read a few pages a night at first while getting used to the way it was written and didn't really get into it until 100 pages in--meaning I feel like I've been chewing through this book for months. There were also a few secondary characters whose lengthy paragraphs describing mundane tasks I could've done without--Sometimes I found myself thinking "Alright already, I get it; most of the people of Gormenghast live a life of monotony and tradition for tradition's sake. Point taken. Can we move on?"
  15. Kylie's Literary Adventures in 2011

    I've actually only read the first half of it--I had to turn it back in because it was overdue. ^^; From what I remember though I really liked it. The dog and the crazy world...it kind of reminded me of Alice in Wonderland meets the Wizard of Oz (the books though, not the movies). Thanks for reminding me of it though! I need to add it to my to-be-read list.
  16. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    All I can say about the ending was that it was appropriate. I mean, really it's the only way it could've ended and been relatively positive. Like I said before though, I would've liked to know more about the state of the world in the following 20 years than about Katniss' life.
  17. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Mockingjay Rating: 4.5/5 Spoilers: Nah Alright. I've gotta hand it to Mrs. Collins: she wrote a good wrap-up. After the rocky read that was book 2, Book 3 made up for the shortcomings. I still didn't care much for Katniss' character (especially at the beginning when she was still being frail and weepy) but as the book moved forward she became more of her hard, practical self. More than likely the reason I enjoyed this book so much more is because the romance was downplayed a LOT in comparison to the first two novels. It was almost non-stop, world changing, society altering, going to war action. The last few chapters especially were impossible to put down. The epilogue left a bit to be desired, mostly because to told me nothing about the state of the world and yet recapped 20 years of a character's family life in a page and a half. Still kind of disappointed about that. I want to know, dangit! One of the major things that the author has going for her is her ability to throw unforeseen curve balls. The constantly ending chapters with cliffhangers thing became a bit expected, thus preparing me each time for something to happen to one character or other. Kind of made me detach from most characters introduced in Mockingjay actually. But still, there are enough unexpected plot twists in this book that they pretty much drown out everything else and keep you occupied. So anyway, yes. This series is worth reading if nothing else for the climactic conclusion.
  18. Kylie's Literary Adventures in 2011

    Oh my...your list is an inspiration. D: I don't know how you keep up with it all. I agree with you on Bridge to Terabithia--it was super sad at the end, but generally if a book can evoke a tear-jerk reaction from me then I am a fan. Have you read A Wrinkle in Time? That might be a children's fantasy more up your alley.
  19. Frankie Reads 2011

    Wow! I'm envious of how many books you've gotten to already this year, I feel like I need to pick up the pace--gah! There simply aren't enough hours in the day! D:
  20. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Catching Fire Rating: 3.5/5 Spoilers: Kind of So, this book—I don’t know. I’m a little torn. Clearly by my rating I didn’t dislike it, but at the same time there were portions of it that really bothered me. I mean, I still think this book and the series are worth reading, but my first impression was that Catching Fire seemed much more hastily written than Hunger Games. I can distinctly remember a number of instances when large lapses in time were passed over in a single paragraph and yet the attitudes and outlooks of the characters did not change, despite the fact that they were concerned about matters that can change on a dime (emotions, social unrest, politics, etc). Aside from the lack of development in this respect, these lapses also made me feel left out of the action—I wanted to know what was going on intimately in their lives, not just to be given a quick run-down of events. Now, in defense of the authoress this might’ve been in interest of keeping the book shorter since it is aimed at young adults…but look at the later Harry Potter books! I see 10 year olds diving into those tomes so I don’t see why middle/high school kids can’t do the same just as easily. Because of this though the plot was fast paced and there wasn’t a whole lot of drag to the book, which was nice. There are seeds of rebellion, slight political intrigue, unexpected allies, surprise twists…actually a lot of really neat things happen in this part of the series, which is what boosts the score of the book for me. However, what keeps it down is not the plot. It is the fact that this book made me dislike the main character. It’s not a good thing when the voice of your story becomes someone you don’t like listening too. Katniss comes off as extremely moody and self-centered; admittedly, very stereotypical teenager traits. But in the first book we are introduced to a character who does not think and behave like a typical teenager: The Katniss of Hunger Games was tough, hardened, and practical. This Katniss is a weepy mess that can’t get her priorities straight and wastes time stringing two guys along after her knowing full well how they feel and frequently stating that she doesn’t have time for love. And yet about half the book is dedicated to her flip flopping back and forth between the two….and what bothers me even more is that people of authority seem to care so much without given reason. The president puts a lot of pressure on her to maintain her happy, love-struck front when there doesn’t initially seem to be much reason since they both know the truth—the only reason given over and over is that her attitude and relationship “defies the Capitol” because she tricked people by playing their Games….okay? And? I thought that was a point? It’s not like she’d be the first person to lie her way to victory. This is especially distracting by the end of the book when you can see how dire the situation is and has been for the country and how truly irrelevant her personal life would be to anyone in any position of power, much less the president. Basically the end of the book came and I still couldn’t see why everyone cared so much whether or not the public believed she was in love. If anything her admitting she was in love with another instead (or as well) would’ve been even more interesting to the star-struck public. Basically the romance in this book feels, to me, like drama for the sake of drama. And it got old fast. And also, since when is Katniss innocent? Someone who has killed kids, broken the law, and played with people’s hearts to satisfy her needs is not someone I could consider innocent and I don’t see how others could see her that way. Strong, admirable, and courageous, yes. But innocent? And yet supposedly everyone acts weird around her to get attention or mess with her or…something. Take Finnick for example. Supposedly cocky and flirty, he presents himself to her one way and then becomes completely competent and useful the next time we meet him, almost instantly abandoning all mannerisms toward Katniss. I had this same issue with Haymitch in the first book and am wondering if this is just how Mrs. Collins writes her characters—setting them up to be so different and then turning them into the same thing. Honestly, I’m tired of every major character being so capable at rallying themselves and putting aside their flaws without addressing them. It takes all of the interest in said character out of the equation. Despite how long and ranty this review appears however, I did have a mostly pleasant book reading experience. Certainly enough for me to put it down and jump right into Mockingjay, which is the conclusion of the series. Here’s hoping that it will justify some of the problems I had with Catching Fire. Or better yet, make me forget them entirely.
  21. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Heh, yeah I just doodled it up--to me blogs are more interesting when there is a picture or two to break up the wall of words. Plus I like finding excuses to scribble. Thanks! I'm sure we've all felt that way when faced with a huge doorstop-type book...I'll get to it soon though! Finishing up Catching Fire now...!
  22. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Aaaand...I'm bad again. My friend just lent me the next two Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins so I think I'm going to have to inhale these as well before I move on to Titus Groan--which I do want to read! I just...am sorely tempted by these two quick-looking YA books. Reviews to come soon, I'm sure.
  23. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    No One Loved Gorillas More: Dian Fossey Letters from the Mist Rating: 5/5 Spoilers: nah This was a fantastically interesting read. I loved being able to get inside the mind of the woman behind Karisoke and the Virunga mountain gorillas in Rwanda. After reading her book and watching the movie, this book was the next logical step--and there is more to discover it would seem! I've just found out that a number of her colleagues (including Bob Campbell, her infamous lover) have written books about their version of the events that took place in the Parc des Volcans. I must say I am quite curious and might be tempted to pick up their acounts in the near future. I'm not sure why the life and story of Dian Fossey holds such a fascination for me, but I feel inexplicably drawn into the circumstances that lead to saving the mountain gorilla from extinction. For anyone out there with a passing interest in animals, conservation, or even just a good real-life adventure of someone overcoming innumerable obstacles, this book is a must-read.
  24. Aaaah! I am so excited! My friend's mom just gave me her complete collection of the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley --with the original cover art and everything! And they're in great condition. D: Holy wow. I want to read them but I'm also scared to touch them.
  25. Kasei's Read-a-blog!

    Haha, soooo confession to make: I was supposed to get started on Titus Groan, but...but then The Dian Fossey book came in and I just watched Gorillas in the Mist so I am quite curious to know whether or not she was that crazy....so here I go, putting Titus on the backburner before I get too far into it and gonna attempt to fly through the Fossey book. Also, I am feeling the need to do some Way of Kings fanart and I think I may just post it here in my book blog thread instead of throwing it in your faces somewhere else on the forums. We shall see....