Monday, April 4, 2016

The Final Empire By Brandon Sanderson - Audiobook

Mistborn: The Final Empire
Brandon Sanderson
5 out of 5

Published 2006
First Sentence
"Ash fell from the sky..."
Publisher's Description:
In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson's intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

Dear Reader,

I am very glad one of my friends turned me onto this series. The fantasy realm that Brandon Sanderson has crafted is tight. I would describe it as similar to feudalistic, pre-industrial earth. There are two classes; the Skaa and the nobleborn. The skaa are under the harsh enslavement of the nobleclass. There is a demi-god ruler referred to as the Lord Ruler. 1,000 years ago an event occured that gave the Lord Ruler his divine powers and the structure of the world was reformed. Now ash falls from the sky, every thing is gray or black, even plants and the sky. At night mists cover the world and have mystical properties. Also at the time his transformation the Lord Ruler gifted all of his supporters a magical condition of allomancy. Allomancy is the magical power of being able to burn specific metals to access certain superhuman abilities. The original supporters have long since passed away but their descendants make up the nobleclass. The heredity of allomancy is passed from generation, because of this the Canton of Inquisition forbids a noble person from procreating with skaa. If they do choose to rape a skaa woman they have to kill her soon after to avoid any halfbreed people.  The two main characters, Vin and Kelsier were both born as skaa but due to the fact that the nobleborn have illegally fathered children, they are mistborn.  They ingest small bits of metals and acquire special powers. For example Pewter gives inhuman strength, tin enhances all of the 6 senses Steel allows you to push metal objects, iron allows you to pull on metal objects, This makes them be able to fly and jump by balancing the pushes and pulls of the metals around them in the city.  Bronze allows the allomancer to soothe people or groups of people depending on how skilled they are.  Copper burning masks their usage of allomancy from other allomancers. Some people only have one of the 11 metals and so they are known by their various names such as a thug, a Smoker or tin-eye. If you're born with more than one ability to burn metals then you can burn them all and are mistborn. The mistborn are the highest echelon of powerful warriors. Atium is a metal that allows the mistborn the ability to see the shadow images of all possible moves their opponent is and could make. This allows them to intercept or dodge blows seconds before the person moves. Atium is so precious and powerful it is also used as a currency 
Vin is a young girl who has lived a rough skaa life as a bandit/ thief. Her brother Ream raised her and also beat and degrading her. As the story starts he has recently abandoned her. Kelsier is the charasmatic leader of a group of skaa who plan to over throw the Lord Ruler. Kelsier has a particularly strong agenda again the noble class and the lord ruler since they beat his wife to death in front of him and sent him to the Atium mines to be worked to death. The idea of overthrowing the Lord Ruler is crazy since he has godlike powers and seems immortal. Rebellions of the past attempt many times to kill him but they had never succeeded. All the odds seem again them but little by little they work on a strategy to weaken the noblemen, deplete the army in the capital city of Luthadel, and to rally the skaa masses. 
Vin is discovered by Kelsier and his crew, he essentially gives her a new family and a new chance at happiness.  Her character has a lot of growing to do from being a battered street urchin to a badass mistborn. 
Sanderson builds up a lot of awful so that the reader can grow more and more angry and the ugly world of, "The Final Empire." The reader definitely will be rooting for the underdog to find a way to take out all the bad guys and like a video game defeat the final master bad guy.
There are some really great unexpected plot twists that I can't tell you about but I can say that the story is very enthralling. I also love how detailed he gets when he describes a battle between allomancers, the coins that they drop and the breastplates that they push off on when they are deflecting and flying around each other. He's set up a great starting point for many other adventures and mysteries of the metals to unfold. 
The theme of religion and it's use in society is addressed in a noteable way. The lord ruler is both their supreme leader and their god. The skaa are supposed to believe this and their for submit willingly to their enslaved lives.  In the tradition of Firefly and Battle Star Gallactica the author gives the people a unique curse. In this world they don't say, " My God!" they say, " Lord ruler!"
The Final Empire has a clear caste system, the rich and powerful and the weak masses. There are some parallels to the way people viewed African Americans in the south before the civil war and these fictional people. Ellend, a nobleman, and his friends wonder out loud if skaa are as intelligent as the people of the nobleclass are. 
There's a little My-Fair-Lady-action going on when they teach Vin to play the part of a rural noblelady named, Lady Villette. She has to grow her hair out, wear ball gowns, high heels and learn all the house names and alliances. ( Sort of Game-of-Throney) They have her attend balls as a spy and she ends up meeting her love interest there. Her teacher, Sazed, is a cool character, kind of like the Giles role from Buffy. He knows all the stuff and has the patience to teach her despite her desire to go play in the mists. 
The plan of the 'crew' ( Kelsier's crew of allomancers and Vin) seems gallant and a little hopeless. How the plot resolves was unexpected and that is a rare statement for someone who likes to read. I should says likes to listen since I almost always do the audiobook version of books. On that note I did like the voice of the narrator, Michael Kramer. 


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

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The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice
James M. Cain

Published 1934

First Sentence
"They threw me off the hay truck about noon."
Publisher's Description:
An amoral young tramp. A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband. A problem that has only one grisly solution--a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve. First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America's bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger.

Dear Reader,

Can you believe I went into reading this book without ever watching any of the movies or knowing the plot line? Well, I did and you know what? I loved it. It might have been just because of that reason, I didn't know the plot. For anyone who does know the plot, you have to admit that it's pretty darn clever. You have a beautiful married woman who falls in love with a drifter who comes to work with her elderly and fat husband. The two elicit a love affair that turns into something more, plotting to get rid of the inconvenience of her marriage. What do you get when you put two terrible people together, make them fall in love and figure out ways to trust the untrustworthy? A really great story. That's what this is.

After reading the book, now I've got to see the movies (especially the 80's version that stars Jack Nicholson & Jessica Lange). Check out some photos from the movie below (the last picture is just so you can check out the young & beautiful Jessica Lange):

Lana Turner & John Garfield in the 1946 Movie Version

Jessica Lange & Jack Nicholson in the 1981 Movie Version

Look how adorable Jack & Jessica look! Love it!

She is so beautiful, Jessica Lange with her bewitching stare.

Just looking at those pictures makes me want to rush out and get the movies today! I would HIGHLY suggest reading this book before watching the films though. I read them unbiasedly, without certain Hollywood Actors in my mind (which is for the best in my opinion).

Back to the book, I want to mention the language James Cain uses. He wrote the character of Frank (the vagabond) as exactly the way you'd suspect. We didn't even need a description, the dialogue alone gives us a rich and colorful view of who Frank represents. The same can be said about most of the characters, especially Cora, which results in extremely well written characters that can stand out without much of a story. However, James Cain gives us that story, and... it's a really fun ride. I felt thrown back into that time period, I could even feel the gritty air surrounding them. Cora shows us the reality of a woman selecting her path in life (to marry and be secure or to be a vagabond herself and wonder where the next meal will come from). So much has changed, yet we still feel for her because the discrimination still exists today. I also fell in love with Frank, even though he's a pretty rotten scoundrel in many ways. I think it's the typical bad boy attitude that got to me. This love story, it's my kind of love story... dirty (not in the sexual way) and honest, the way real relationships depend on trust and hardships. After reading this, I want to check out some more from James Cain. At least I can be secure in knowing the characters will be brightly colored and easily pictured, which is something I truly appreciate in any Author.

Happy Reading,

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