“The Well of Ascension” – How Can the Plot Grow Once the Empire Was Defeated?

Book Review: The Well of Ascension, A Mistborn Novel

                         By Brandon Sanderson

Spoiler Alert!

Screen shot 2014-03-13 at 7.13.13 PMThey did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

Adult Point of View

Sanderson has put himself in an interesting position to write the second book, however, it is obvious he has a master plan from beginning to end. With the demise of the empire it would seem that the trilogy should end. The result is that the death of the Lord Ruler has left such a hole in the structure of society and the fabric that constructs their world that it seems everything is even worse than before. Trying to rebuild a nation after a war is never easy and this is the problem Elend and Vin face with the help of some of the former crew. Sanderson states on his website,

Everyone has read the stories of the heroes overthrowing a tyrant—what I DON’T think many people have read is the story of those same heroes trying to build and rule a kingdom following their great victory.

I think that rule—building something up, rather than tearing something down—is an even more difficult task than than overthrowing an enemy. (brandonsanderson.com)

Many found this novel slower than the first, and I have to agree to a degree, but I still enjoyed it to gain a greater depth of characters and to have more pieces of the puzzle fit together. I am particularly interested in Sazed and loved the time devoted to him. I’m still thinking about Vin and Elend’s romance, though it does seem that they both need each other for different reasons. I’m not sure that I find it completely compelling. I am also very interested in the Kandra because they are so vastly different in structure and social reasoning than the humans. How does Sanderson’s brain come up with these quirky ideas? He is on my list of authors I would actually want to sit down with and chat for an afternoon even if there was no dessert.

I continue to be fascinated with the magic associated with the characters and am constantly guessing where it will go in relation to The Alloy of Law (which I read first, rather than the Mistborn). I also liked that more was revealed about the past when the Lord Ruler took the power at the Well of Ascension because it added to the theological depth of the world Sanderson created. The pull between good and evil becomes murky and our perception changes with the events as more knowledge is given to us.

My one word of caution is that the book is violent and fairly descriptive of the violence, particularly in the scenes using Hemalurgy.

4 out of 5 stars
4 star

- the Mother

Teen Point of View

I liked this book. I like the romance between Vin and Elend because they really trusted each other. They didn’t get into little tiffs over pointless issues and they didn’t get jealous. I liked how they would critically think through their problems rather than go off of their emotions. The characters weren’t reckless hotheads who never thought through things, and then would miraculously solve all their problems by fate.

I like the writing style because it is detailed, and it really engages you. Sanderson has a unique writing style and it is really good.

A solid 4.5 out of 5 stars
4 1:2 star

- the Teen

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“Bertie Plays the Blues” – The Adored Child of Modern Literature Is An Assured Winner for Alexander McCall Smith

Book Review: Bertie Plays the Blues
by Alexander McCall Smith

Spoiler Alert!

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.15.42 PM

 

Domestic bliss seems in short supply at 44 Scotland Street. Over at the Pollocks, dad, Stuart, is harbouring a secret about a secret society and Bertie is feeling kind of blue. Having had enough of his neurotic hot-housing mother, he puts himself up for adoption on eBay. Will he go to the highest bidder or will he have to take matters into his own hands? Will the lovelorn Big Lou find true love on the internet? And will Angus Lordie and Domenica make it up the aisle? (courtesy of Goodreads)

 

 

 

 

Adult Point of View

I am completely charmed by Bertie, and horrified by his mother and father! I commend Smith for creating a character that fans love, adore and hope for him to find a better life. To create a character that feels so real and elicits the sympathy of readers is quite a feat and in this case a cash cow because I would buy any book that includes Bertie. I know I am not alone in this adoration of the perpetually frustrated and charming young boy.

There are other characters in 44 Scotland Street series that I also elicit strong reactions. I shudder every time Bruce enters the scene, feel perplexed over Pat, wish for the best for Big Lou (such a great kind hearted soul, let’s all hope she finds love), feel bemused by Matthew and often surprised by Domenica and tolerently amused by Angus and Cyril.

There are scenes in the series that have stayed with me and I will suddenly recollect when something in real life jars my memory. The disappointing nudist picnic that was rained upon forcing everyone to wear ponchos is one of those funny moments. Another would be when Bertie asks Stewart about the number of gears on the car that was returned to them from Lard O’Conner in Glasgow. What child would put themselves up for adoption on ebay, a child with Irene as a mother – that’s who!

I love the deceptively simple writing and the poignant moments that Smith creates. I also love that nothing too terrible happens in this series. It’s nice to know I can depend on the 44 Scotland Street series to be charming, delightful and fun.

Thank you Mr. Smith!

Absolutely 5 out of 5 stars because we need more books that make us smile!
5 star

- Michelle

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“Michael Vey, Battle of the Ampere” – Do the Cliff Hangers Ever End?

 Michael Vey, Battle of the Ampere
by Richard Paul Evans

Spoiler Alert!

Picture 88Michael, Taylor, Ostin and the rest of the Electroclan have destroyed the largest of the Elgen Starxource plants, but now they’re on the run. The Elgen have teamed up with the Peruvian army to capture them, and only Michael remains free. With his friends due to stand trial for terrorism—a charge that may carry the death penalty—Michael will need all his wits and his abilities if he’s to save them.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Dr. Hatch and his loyal Electric Children have seized control of the E.S. Ampere—the super yacht the Elgen use as their headquarters. With the seven ships of the Elgen fleet now under his control, Hatch heads back to Peru to gather his army and begin his quest for global domination.

Michael must free his friends then find a way to stop Hatch, but Hatch knows Michael and the Electroclan are coming. And he’s ready for them. Can the Electroclan win the battle of the Ampere? Or has Michael’s luck finally run out?  (Courtesy of Amazon)

Adult Point of View

This installment quickly picks up where the last cliff hanger ended, whisking Michael, and Tessa, out of the Amazon and into peril to protect and save the Electroclan. It seems like the intensity of the violence is growing with each installment in the series. I didn’t actually count, but it seems like there are even more deaths and again more torture. This is still not my favorite series! I keep reading it to preview it for my son who wants to read it and so we can talk about things if he has concerns or problems understanding the novel.

Battle of the Ampere enters a new level of dark when (remember spoiler alert!) a main character within the Electroclan dies. (I have resisted naming the character, but it is NOT Michael!) Usually in children’s series it seems the main characters are impervious to death and I think this will probably upset some readers. Harry Potter is another series that crosses that line when beloved main characters die. Perhaps this is a new trend in children’s books where there will be more realism, that death can touch anyone. I’m not sure that I don’t prefer the impervious main characters that will pull through anything no matter what, for young readers.

To answer the question in the title. There is not exactly a cliff hanger, however, things are not resolved and we are thrown enough information to know where the next novel is heading and Michael Vey and his friends will have new adventures trying to stop Dr. Hatch and his plans for world domination. (Perhaps, a sound track with evil chuckling should play anytime someone says “world domination” out loud.)

This novel persists in the flaws of predictable twists and a repetition of the same scene played out again and again. I keep reminding myself it was not written for me, but for young (boy) readers. Thankfully the romance is not too intense for boys. I do like that Taylor is a strong female character, and has natural flaws of jealously and insecurities that she works through. Michael’s character has improved since the first novel as well as his best friend, Ostin.

A reluctant 3 out of 5 stars
3 star

- the Mother

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“Michael Vey, Rise of the Elgen” – Does the Hero Remain An Average Misfit?

 Michael Vey, Rise of the Elgen
by Richard Paul Evans

Spoiler Alert!

michael vey rise of elgenMichael was born with special electrical powers—and he’s not the only one. His friend Taylor has them too, and so do other kids around the world. With Michael’s friend Ostin, a tecno-genius, they form the Electroclan, an alliance meant to protect them from a powerful group, the growing Order of Elgen, who are out to destroy them. The leader of the Elgen, Dr. Hatch, has kidnapped Michael’s mother, and time is running out. Michael must save his mother.

After narrowly escaping an Elgen trap, Ostin’s discovery of bizarre “rat fires” in South America leads the gang to the jungles of Peru, where the Electroclan meets new, powerful foes and faces their greatest challenge yet as Michael learns the extent of the Elgen’s rise in power—and the truth of their plan to “restructure” the world. (Courtesty of Goodreads)

Adult Point of View

Evans has ramped up the intensity in the sequel. It is action packed and full of scenes with rats that made me squirm. The intended audience is about 11 to 13 years old, though some of the sentences may be a bit hard for them to understand. The twist plots are predictable, however, are fine for the intended audience. There are some truly gruesome scenes with torture and (spoiler alert!……) where humans are to be fed alive to the rats who go into a feeding frenzy stripping all the flesh from living creatures. There are also deaths in the course of the book. The teen romance is fairly light, thankfully.

One thing I was happy to see is that the Michael Vey’s tourettes is no longer such a focus in the novel and recedes into the background allowing him to be a hero, though at times reluctant. This is not my favorite series, but it seems to be of high interest for reluctant readers and in particular boys. In my experience there are many books of interest for girls and not as many for boys, so it is nice to have books that young boys gobble up.

3 out of 5 stars
3 star

- the Mother

The Daughter has outgrown this series and has not read it, however, the next Son has read it and loved it! I am sure he would rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Michael Vey, Battle of the Ampere
by Richard Paul Evans

Spoiler Alert!

Picture 88

Michael, Taylor, Ostin and the rest of the Electroclan have destroyed the largest of the Elgen Starxource plants, but now they’re on the run. The Elgen have teamed up with the Peruvian army to capture them, and only Michael remains free. With his friends due to stand trial for terrorism—a charge that may carry the death penalty—Michael will need all his wits and his abilities if he’s to save them.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Dr. Hatch and his loyal Electric Children have seized control of the E.S. Ampere—the super yacht the Elgen use as their headquarters. With the seven ships of the Elgen fleet now under his control, Hatch heads back to Peru to gather his army and begin his quest for global domination.

Michael must free his friends then find a way to stop Hatch, but Hatch knows Michael and the Electroclan are coming. And he’s ready for them. Can the Electroclan win the battle of the Ampere? Or has Michael’s luck finally run out?  (Courtesy of Amazon)

Adult Point of View

This installment quickly picks up where the last cliff hanger ended, whisking Michael, and Tessa, out of the Amazon and into peril to protect and save the Electroclan. It seems like the intensity of the violence is growing with each installment in the series. I didn’t actually count, but it seems like there are even more deaths and again more torture. This is still not my favorite series! I keep reading it to preview it for my son who wants to read it and so we can talk about things if he has concerns or problems understanding the novel.

Battle of the Ampere enters a new level of dark when (remember spoiler alert!) a main character within the Electroclan dies. (I have resisted naming the character, but it is NOT Michael!) Usually in children’s series it seems the main characters are impervious to death and I think this will probably upset some readers. Harry Potter is another series that crosses that line when beloved main characters die. Perhaps this is a new trend in children’s books where there will be more realism, that death can touch anyone. I’m not sure that I don’t prefer the impervious main characters that will pull through anything no matter what, for young readers.

To answer the question in the title. There is not exactly a cliff hanger, however, things are not resolved and we are thrown enough information to know where the next novel is heading and Michael Vey and his friends will have new adventures trying to stop Dr. Hatch and his plans for world domination. (Perhaps, a sound track with evil chuckling should play anytime someone says “world domination” out loud.)

This novel persists in the flaws of predictable twists and a repetition of the same scene played out again and again. I keep reminding myself it was not written for me, but for young (boy) readers. Thankfully the romance is not too intense for boys. I do like that Taylor is a strong female character, and has natural flaws of jealously and insecurities that she works through. Michael’s character has improved since the first novel as well as his best friend, Ostin.

A reluctant 3 out of 5 stars
3 star

- the Mother

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“Mistborn – The Final Empire” – Where Can A Book Go When It Begins At the End of An Empire?

Mistborn : The Final Empire
By Brandon Sanderson

Spoiler Alert!

Picture 87For a thousand years, the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years, the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years, the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heartbroken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.” “Kelsier recruits the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Then Kelsier reveals his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.” But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets. She will have to learn trust if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed. (Overview courtesy of Barnes & Noble)

Adult Point of View

I have read by far too much fantasy and science fiction and very little seems original anymore. I was caught completely off guard by this book! (I did read out of order and read Alloy of Law first.) For me, I was now going back in time to find out more about how the universe worked in Alloy of Law. I found the world to be intriguing, complex and complete. I particularly like how there are multiple religions, races and new species. I also love the idea of how a world may evolve over time with magic just like ours has evolved with science. I do want to note that there is a lot of violence in the book and definitely scenes that made me squeamish. The violence did have a specific purpose in the plot and was not there just for sensationalism. This is a book written for adults, but there are high school students who would enjoy it. I would think it is best for students over 16 years old.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4 1:2 star

- Michelle

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“Alloy of Law” – Does the Fantasy/Science Fiction Genre Blend With the Old West?

Book Review : Alloy of Law
By Brandon Sanderson

Spoiler Alert!

Picture 32Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs. (Courtesy of goodread.com)

Adult Point of View

Some authors that have changed expectations in writing include Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkein, and I believe Brandon Sanderson has joined their ranks. I love the well thought out world building, characters and creativity inherent to Sanderson’s writing. Alloy of Law is a great addition to the world of fiction and I loved how it worked seamlessly with the setting in the lawless old West.

I have not yet read the Mistborn series, and would think that some areas of religion or use of the allomancy would have been more clear if I had the base of knowledge from the first trilogy. Even so, I greatly enjoyed Alloy of Law on its own and it is not completely necessary to have read the previous books.

One of my favorite relationships in the book was between Wax and Wayne. These men worked with each using humor and jibes, somewhat like brothers might, but they actually had a deep concern and respect for each other, also like brothers. I also enjoyed Marasi because she wasn’t brazenly tough or brave, but rather was bookish and just using the skills she had the best ways she could.

There are quite a few deaths, but the details were not overly grisly and it is so fun that many older teens will also enjoy this book in addition to adults.

4.5 out of 5 stars (though a 5+ stars for pure enjoyment)
4 1:2 star

- the Mother

ps- I have handed it off to my daughter, but she has not read it yet. I will update this post when she completes it.

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“The Forgotten Garden” – Should Some Secrets Stay Forgotten?

Book Review : The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Spoiler Alert!

Picture 23Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace – the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century – Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

Adult Point of View

My first impression was that the book was very slow to get interesting. I believe I had passed about page 160 before it picked up.

The POV flips between times and characters. Nell’s point of view is seen in the present, when she traveled to England and sometimes when she was a child. Eliza’s point of view is always from the past, both her childhood and growth into an adult. Cassandra’s point of view is the present. We also see Rose’s point of view through her scrapbooks and letter. I thought it was a bit cumbersome to have so many “main” characters. In a way the mystery of solving Nell’s parentage is the actual main character and everybody else is supportive of the quest.

I found the book to be rather trite and predictable. Nell never makes the discovery of her full ancestors history. Cassandra discovers most of the past and finally finds hope for love again. We discover that Nell was not ruthlessly kidnapped and abandoned, but was in fact being protected after her parents’ demise. It was also no surprise that Rose was only Ivory’s adopted mother and was actually Eliza’s child. (It’s not like they had in vitro fertilization back then.)

I didn’t think some elements in the story line were even necessary. The largest literary problem was the role of the Uncle and Great Grandfather of Nell. The reader discovers that he had incestuous thoughts about his sister, but that wasn’t the real motive for her leaving the family – she was running away to be married to a poor man. She may have warned Eliza to stay away from the bad man because of her brother’s behavior. Eliza was elusive and did not consciously seem aware that her uncle wanted to have an affair with her. Ivory was disturbed that her Grandfather had the horrid dolly, but was also consciously unaware of his desires. Eliza had taken Ivory to protect her from growing up in her ancestral home, however, she seemed much more concerned over Ivory’s well being around her grandmother than her grandfather. So my question is why did Morton through in this whole undercurrent of incest when it wasn’t central to the actions of the characters?

This is a wholly sentimental read, written for women. I thought it was alright while I was reading, but on further reflection I find very little in redeeming qualities and lots of complaints.

2.5 out of 5 stars
2 1:2 star

- Michelle

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