The Graceling Katsa

I didn’t get enough of the stunning monster Fire. So I have to devour the beautiful graceling Katsa as well. I’m beginning to like Kristin Cashore’s books.


gracelingno dictionary results

!Suggestions: grace**

Graceling is the first book published by author Kristin Cashore. They say, if you like Twilight, you’ll definitely like Graceling, too.

At first I found it strange for Prince Greening (affectionately called Prince Po) to behave the way he did when Katsa* and company went back for him at his hiding and recovery place at the base of the mountains of Monsea. With his amazing grace, or (in this particular case, I would think it’s more appropriate to say) amazing powers, why would physical blindness affect him that much? If I had his grace**, I would have no need for eyes.

Then it begins to unfold. The Lienid kind, and Prince Po in particular, is the kind who believes that beauty is a joy to behold forever; who reveres nature’s beauty – the golden sunset, the raging storm, the cold severity of winter – and most especially, the beauty of the woman she adores. He does have a gift to sense everything around him but apparently it lacks color. He probably senses things better than a bat does, but they both can’t see color now.

And perhaps what he is most afraid of is the eventual realization by everyone that he is blind and concomitantly the anger of waking to the fact that they were victims of a lie; of being fooled into believing what he projected to everyone his grace to be.

Luckily, he experiences that ‘aha moment’ just in time. And he has Katsa to help him hide yet another lie – to make everyone believe he is not actually blind. Whew, it’s good to know though that these lies bring only good for everyone, in contrast to the deceptions of Leck that bring only pain for his victims.

I find Kristin Cashore’s ‘Graceling’ more captivating than ‘Fire‘. I read ‘Fire’ in stops and starts mainly because it did not keep me from yielding to so many distractions such as the need to check my facebook account, to read my e-mails, read my friends’ blogs, the lure of joining my kids as they cavorted outside in the rain, shoot pictures of the moon, etc.

With ‘Graceling’, I was somehow able to resist most of these distractions and thus completed reading the book earlier. For once, I agree with the praises at its back cover about not being able to put it down. ‘Fire’ may however have helped prep me up so that I was able now to immerse fully in ‘Graceling’. Had I read Graceling first prior to Fire, I wonder if the experience would have worked similarly.

I also like the graceling Katsa more than the monster Fire. Makes me wonder if I’m the kind who likes violence more than diplomacy. I like the fact though that Katsa chosed to temper her violent power and asserted her independence – disobeying her king who sees her only as a pawn to implement his selfish affairs.

Hadn’t it been for the presence of King Leck (who apparently is the adult version of the young Leck in ‘Fire’), I would have thought that Katsa is a reincarnation of Fire. But inspite the dazzling beauty of Fire, I find Katsa sexier and more appealing. Prince Po definitely is the luckiest guy in the Seven Kingdoms for having Katsa.

Now, this is one story I absolutely would expect to watch a movier version of. Move over Bella, here comes Katsa.

*Read from wiki the plot summary and descriptions of the main characters, here.

**Grace: extra-ordinary gift or power that gracelings have. Gracelings are identified by their mismatched colored eyes.

Kristin Cashore: Fire

I’ve just finished reading Kristin Cashore’s book called Fire. If you like Twilight and similar fantasy stories, I bet you’ll like this too.

Last week, my wife brought home a book called Fire by Kristin Cashore. A friend, Joy, lent it to her because she knows we liked Twilight. Fire is the first book I’ve read from author Kristin Cashore. I gathered that there is a book called Graceling which she wrote prior to Fire.

kristin cashore Fire

      monster:
	1. any creature that is so ugly or monstrous as to terrify 
            and frighten people.
	2. any  human or   animal  grotesquely  deviating  from  
            the  normal form,  shape, or behavior. 
	3. a  person  who  excites  horror  by brutality, harshness, 
            cruelty,  wickedness,  etc.  
	Synonyms: brute, fiend, devil, demon,  miscreant.

If Jean Grey was in this story, she’d be called a monster too. Except that, aside from her powers, she’d have to be extremely beautiful to qualify as a true monster. Thus the definitions above do not necessarily reflect the kind of monsters found in Kristin Cashore’s book.

Fire is a story that revolves around the character named err… Fire. She is a teenage monster. She has a monster father and a regular mother. While Publishers Weekly commented that this will ‘slake the thirst of Twilight fans’, there are actually only a very few things in ‘Fire’ that is comparable to ‘Twilight’, the most obvious ones being – both falls under the fantasy category, the main character here is also a teenager, and has powers above the ordinary.

The story is set in a place called The Dells, just South of Pikkia. Sorry, you won’t find these places on Google maps. I even tried Seven Kingdoms (the setting for Graceling), and the best I could find is a street in Pulaski, Kentucky called 7 Kingdoms Way.

Fire

Fire finds herself in a predicament in that her kind, despite their extraordinary beauty, are hated and mistrusted. This is primarily because of the fact that they could control anyone and make them do anything they want. This mistrust and hatred grew out of the doings of her father, Cansrel, who used his powers for his own ends, killing or using people without qualms. Besides, monsters of all kinds abound in the Dells too. For each existing animal, there are monster equivalents: monster rats, cats, horses, gnats, mosquitoes, birds, lions, leopards, etc, all extraordinarily beautiful and captivating. The monster lions and leopards are as vicious and frightening, perhaps even more so, as the ordinary lions and leopards. Raptors, huge monster birds, abound in the skies and are the main hindrances (aside from the thieves and brigands) to travelling in the open. These raptors patrol the skies and swoops down and takes people (and especially, other monsters) for dinner.

Because of this predicament, she hides from everyone except for a few people who knew her real character and thus loved and trusted her, e.g. her childhood friend Archer. But she has a duty to do for the kingdom where she belongs. She of course could choose to shirk away from this responsibility but it would mean the downfall of King’s City and the rule of chaos and anarchy, which would also mean making her life even more miserable (as she is a much coveted commodity for all forms of beasts who would want to rule). Thus, she becomes the central pillar for King’s City’s survival in the war. Particular in the few hours before the war, her use of her powers proved to be the turning point of the city from sure destruction to victory. In modern times, it would have been like having the advantage of satellite eyes, radars and sensors, and subliminal manipulation. It is here where she finds her conceptions of her monster nature to be unnecessarily true. A monster can, after all, live with regular people and become a comfort and inspiration to them. Hopefully, the people would soon totally let go of any mistrust and hatred they have for her and for other monster people (which is unlikely because she is the last monster, at least in The Dells).

Oh, of course, there’s a love story here. Had my wife some writing inclinations, she would have firstly dwelt more on the love story and whose son or daughter is who. There’s Archer, Brigan, Roen, Brocker. I’m not good at describing a love story though. If you like fantasy stories, you’ll certainly like Fire. My next book to read of course would be Kristin Cashore’s Graceling*. One more thing: Kristin Cashore has a blog where you’ll find the humor and wit behind the fantasy writer. I have a feeling that this writer is going to have her break pretty soon, with her books going the way of Twilight – that is, into movies.

Praise for Fire:

  • Winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award.
  • Winner of the Cybil in the category of YA Fantasy and Science Fiction.
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection.
  • An ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
  • A Kirkus Best YA Book of 2009. (PDF)
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of 2009.
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2009.
  • One of Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2009.
  • A 2009 Booklist Editors’ Choice.
  • One of Booklist’s “Top 10 SF/Fantasy Titles for Youth.”
  • A YALSA 2010 Teens’ Top Ten Nomination. (PDF)
  • A Washington Post Best Kid’s Book of the Year.
  • A Seattle Times Best YA Book of 2009.
  • On the Winter 2010 Indie Next Kid’s List.
  • On the 2010 CCBC Choices list.
  • A New York Times and a Publishers Weekly best seller.
(source: Kristin Cashore’s blog)

*Graceling: In a country west of The Dells is a nation called the Seven Kingdoms where their equivalent to The Dells’ monsters are called gracelings. These humans usually are identified by color-mismatched eyes. Each of these gracelings have graces (powers). Some can read minds, some can move really fast, some can cause fires, etc. The seven kingdoms is separated from The Dells by rugged, impassable, and un-inhabitable mountain ranges.

Other reviews of Fire:


Book Review: How to be Happy and Have Fun Changing the World

My personal reaction to a book by Michael Anthony detailing his personal crusade to make the world a happier place by being happy himself and communicating his positive emotions to the world.

This is a book that was written way back in 2005 by the author Michael Anthony. I’m writing this review more as a very personal reaction after having read it than as a review in the strictest sense of the word. I have written an article about the necessity to feel good always and have submitted it to a couple of article directories: ezinearticles and goarticles. It deals more on the karmic level of feelings than on the physical levels. This book was a pleasant surprise to me as it confirms my belief that one must feel good or happy in order to move forward. Feeling miserable is a step in the opposite direction. And it elaborates on the physical effects of positive feelings. Thus I have become even more completely convinced that my hunches were right. This book fully supports and backs up my beliefs.

happybook

I recall that I have declared in my previous articles that we must feel good always. I said that “I would even venture to say” that to feel good is a responsibility. On a personal level, it should be. But if one believes in one’s personal responsibility to help change the world, it becomes even more seriously so.


The heart of Michael’s preaching lies in his affirmation which he desires to become everyone’s affirmation. He believes that if enough individuals take up the challenge to live the 8-word affirmation, global change would happen for the better. Michael expounds on the mental programming everyone has undergone since childhood. While most authors call it the subconscious, Michael prefers to call it the “tape”, referring to the tape in a tape recorder. I have a feeling that had Michael been born a decade later, he would have probably used ‘hard disk’, or ‘memory chip’ or even ‘history folder’. He contends that your programming is stored in your tape and you act and react according to the contents of your tape; especially, according to the latest records embedded on the tape. If these records are mostly negative in nature, you might be in for a rough ride when you decide to change for the better. But no matter how dark your records may be, you need only match it with the right amount of determination in order to conquer it in time.

Firstly, Mike stresses that “your brain actually secretes chemicals corresponding to your positive and negative thoughts.” These secretions change the overall chemistry of one’s cranial fluids which in turn influences one’s natural abilities and functions. These were not ‘theories’ that he belched out off the top of his head. These were based on the findings of Dr. Michael Raleigh at the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioural Sciences at UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Raleigh confirms that higher levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin “correlate to higher performance levels and that changes in behaviour cause serotonin levels to change.” In layman’s terms, this means that you can increase your natural abilities by tweaking the chemistry of your brain’s cranial fluid. One very important factor that you can use to tweak the brain’s cranial fluids is your thoughts, and thus your emotions. In other words, say, if you are an athlete preparing for a major competition, aside from your regulary physical preparations, you can perceptively increase your performance by bringing up good feelings in yourself. Feel happy, feel joy, feel good. It is imperative that you monitor your feelings henceforth. Just as good happy thoughts and feelings increase your skill and performance levels, negative thoughts and emotions likewise pull you down drastically. A martial arts athlete therefore not only needs to practice to control his physical reflexes, he also needs to practice to control his emotional responses. An event that would normally bring up a response of anger should now be endeavoured to be viewed in a more objective manner. Events are events. “Facts are merely facts. However, you can choose your emotional response to them.”


“Your physiology works both ways. Your body reflects your feelings. However, how you carry your body affects your feelings. One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your chemistry is to change your physiology. By taking slow deep breaths, standing tall and sticking your chest out, you automatically increase your chemistry and immediately feel better. Raise your eyes to the sky and smile right now. Do you feel a change in your energy and alertness? If you always carry yourself like a winner, you will feel like a winner.”


The mental programming, as mentioned earlier, affects your ability to control your emotions. Thus, now that you know about your emotion’s effect on your physical performance, you want to be able to feel happy now more often. But since our mental programming dictates that we should feel anger at the slightest provocation, you might find it difficult to control this automatic response. However, this should prove to be hard only within the first few weeks of your attempts. Note that Mike said that you act and react according to the contents of your tape or programming, especially according to the “latest” embedded records. As you continue to try to intentionally divert to feeling good instead of, say, exploding in anger, or sagging in dismay, you are actually overwriting the latest records. You are embedding new records…the records of your attempt to feel good in response to whatever events that come or happen to you. Or the records of your intention to simply feel good all the time. Eventually, your latest records will contain only this new way of acting and reacting. In time these attempts will no longer be ‘attempts’, but natural actions and reactions.

The book tells us how to be better at anything. The primary method is to be happy. And since, as stated in the book, feelings are contagious, we are actually unconsciously communicating our ‘communicable’ joy and happiness to everyone you meet. We thus are also changing the world in our own way and having fun in the process. To know the 8-word affirmation, please download Mike’s book at howtobehappy.org, or you can also directly download it here. It’s 2.5 MB, so have a little patience as your browser loads up.

Book Review: How To Make Friends Worth Keeping

A review of a brand new book intended for those who want to take friendship and relationships as a serious business for life.

How To Make Friends Worth Keeping is a book written by a guy from Sydney, Australia, Alex Vaselevski, an overachiever who is so successful at the things he does because he puts his all into it, to the point, sadly, of sacrificing a part of his life – his personal relationships. Now he is applying the strategies he used in building his successful career into building friendship and personal relationships and is sharing it to the world through this amazing e-book.

All you have to do is bring the commitment and the determination to become the person who you were born to be. I am delighted to supply the rest.” –Alex Vaselevski, How To Make Friends Worth Keeping

This book is intended for everyone, especially those who are serious about building relationships because the book presents practical steps that make perfect sense and are bound to work as expected. He warns the reader early in the book, however, about the need to conquer the fear that might keep one from making the move to implement the suggested methods. The suggested ‘how to make friends’ steps sometimes sound like hard work. Building and maintaining friendships turns out to be much like the way an efficient business establishment is handled. You make a business plan, chart out a schedule for calls, activities, etc. You even make a database of records for each friend! Stop and check yourself right there. The level of your surprise or disbelief at the preceding statements is also the level at which you take the value of friendship and relationships for granted. Note, the author says: “Nothing is trivial when it comes to friendship”. If you have experience, or is familiar, or even just have an inkling about business procedures, you will realize that what is elaborated in the book will definitely give assured returns in terms of loyal friendships and strong lasting relationships.
how-to-make-friends
If you still think that friendship and relationships are not that big a deal, consider the following statements as a wake-up call. “If you look at the deathbed research, no one ever talks about money or work or possessions or accomplishments. Instead, it is all about relationships, families, friendships and the times which they have shared with those whom they treasure the most. Don’t miss out. Value people by valuing the things which seem limitless and trivial.” And if I may add, the discussion of accomplishments, possessions and accumulated wealth left behind only causes jealousy, envy and arguments as to who gets which, further causing division and strife in relationships.

The book elaborates on the concepts that allow you to make friends worth keeping. Not only that, it goes into details and even gives specific steps to take to implement the ideas presented. It teaches you the different types of people, how to detect a person’s type and how to handle each type. It also gives tips on recognizing the kind of people to stay away from. You can consider it as a how-to-make-friends coach that will guide you through the phases of initiating, establishing, maintaining, mending, deepening and keeping friendships and relationships for life. If you find the art of conversation challenging, you will also be coached in detail on each stage of a conversation ( i.e opening, body, closing) and the value of listening. You will literally become a master conversationalist eventually if you practice the methods as instructed and an expert on how to make friends worth keeping.

All in all, I consider the book, How To Make Friends Worth Keeping, as a must-have in my library.