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Brandon Sanderson's 'Alloy of Law' takes place 300 years after the events of his original Mistborn Triliogy, (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages). With the original trilogy being mindblowing, I had high expectations for this book; Brandon had a lot to live up to! Luckily he succeeded and has created a good progression book for the series.
Lord Waxillium Ladrian (a decendant from Breeze, a character from the first books) is the head of a noble house, with hundreds of people depending on him for employment. We are introduced to him in the Roughs (a lawless desert landscape with an abundance of criminals) where we understand he has left the city to become a lawkeeper. Living in the Roughs is hard, everyone expects they can take what they want, and get away with it. After witnessing the death of one of the most infamous criminals, Waxillium leaves the Roughs to return to Scadrial, the city in which most of the story takes place.
Brandon has very successfully created a world which has moved on. With guns, horseless carriages and electric lights becoming more common place, he has definitely not stood still for this novel. His technical progression in this world gives readers a new playground for the characters, adding variety to a common theme. One of the main messages I took from the story is that magic still exists in modern times, it's just harder to find, and sometimes less obvious. Is that voice he hears in his head when he prays really God, or is it part of his imagination? Is it just coincidence that Waxillium finds his suitcase, just as he needs to, or did some divine power aid him? It seems to me Sanderson intends to show his fans that although we all love stories of old magic and empires, dangerous and important work is done by lawkeepers and is still just as exciting in more modern times.
Waxilllium is a rare Twinborn, who has an Allomantic and Feruchemal power, from his joint heritage to previous Feruchemists and Breeze. His powers show us an ordinary Sherlock Holmes type of detective, with a bit of a kick. His 'Watson' style deputy, named Wayne, is also a powerful Twinborn and adds much welcome humour to the book. Miles (who may as well be named Moriarty) is a law keeper turned bad, and is the main criminal of the book.
One of the main reasons I like Sanderson's books, is that although they are high fantasy, with all the magic and power you could wish for, they are not overly difficult to read. I am currently struggling with reading the first Lord of the Rings. Whereas these books have a much more old fashioned and perhaps more genuine approach to language, Brandon's novels are accessible to anyone. Ok so maybe characters do use very modern language, however I definitely prefer this to not understanding what they're rambling on about.
Another reason for the success of this book is Sanderson's ability to create a world which has it's own superstitions, religions, saying and beliefs. My favourite adaptation is "take what he said with a pinch of copper". Instead of salt, Brandon uses one of the Allomantic metals, a simple yet effective method of making a more realistic world.
To avid Mistborn fans he gives extra snippets of information referring to characters or themes from the previous books, which add satisfaction and a sense of authenticity.
I think what I like most about this book, is that even without the magic of Feruchemy and Allomancy, it would still make a very good book. The storyline is clever enough, the characters just about unusual enough, and the noble society interesting enough for the novel to pass without it's "pinch of copper". This demonstrates that Brandon Sanderson does not rely on the fantasy alone to create a good book, something which cannot be said for all fantasy writers.
When one thinks of aliens invading and taking over Earth we have stereotypical images of dark, tall, slimy creatures shooting us with laser cannons and stealing all our resources to build another death ray. 'Souls' are the total opposite. They invade Earth for our own good; they eradicate crime, stop pollution and bring instantaneous cures to every disease and injury possible. The good doesn't stop there. Each Soul is perfectly loving, friendly, never violent, and is always sharing. They are happy to for fill their 'calling' so that society can function perfectly with no unemployment, and no homelessness. And they do all this without killing the human population.
So what's the problem you ask?
Well, as suggested by the title, the aliens use the human bodies as hosts, and take control of them. Human consciousness is destroyed and replaced. So there's the problem. By the time the humans realise what is happening, it's too late, your neighbour is already planning to invite you over for tea so he can implant another Soul into the back of your head.
The story starts with the Soul named Wanderer being inserted into a recently captured rebel human, Melanie Stryder (who escaped the invasion, and was on the run). Her task is to seek out Melanie's memories and discover how she has managed to survive for so long in a Soul run world.
Upon waking Wanderer is bombarded with human sensations and emotions, presented as being much stronger than bodies from other Soul controlled planets. As well as the extra senses and emotions, Wanderer is confronted with something she has never known on her eight other planets, a host consciousness: Melanie is still here. Her consciousness refuses to leave, and she guards as many memories as she can, so Wanderer cannot get the information asked of her.
The story progresses as a conflict between Wanderer and Melanie, as Wanderer strives to cope with this new planet and Melanie tries to come to terms with losing control of her body. Wanderer experiences Melanie's memories in her dreams, which reveal the existence of Melanie's brother, Jamie, and her lover, Jared. Melanie's emotionally charged memories bring Wanderer to care for Jared and Jamie, and ultimately lead to Wanderer seeking them out.
Upon discovering a human society living in underground caves in the desert, Wanderer finally finds Jared. The humans obviously despise Souls, for taking their world and this leads to abuse and death threats against Wanderer; Jared is no exception.
Wanderer (nicknamed Wanda) and Melanie are eventually (and grudgingly by some) accepted into the group, with few knowing of Melanie's existence. The rest of the book follows Wanda's growing love for the humans, and her insight into human nature, leading her to regret her species invading the planet. Wanda is eventually of huge use to the humans, as her identity as a Soul means resources are easily available to her.
The novel contains many important themes, which are explored from a different point of view, that of a Soul. Wanda's biggest insight is how humans love. She feels the deep emotional attachment to someone, the caring motherly feeling, and the physical pain of being apart from them. Whereas Souls love unconditionally, human love is very specific. Souls love every stranger on the street, whereas a human loves far fewer. Wanda discovers that loving only one person exclusively is far more powerful than loving everyone.
Another theme shown throughout the book is the ups and downs of human nature. We love in the strongest ways, and hate in the strongest ways. Perhaps one cannot exist without the other. The fierce yet fragile nature of humans is shown to be desirable and despicable at the same time.
A further theme covered is that of body image. Melanie experiences the horror of not having a body to call her own, which leads us to a sense that we should appreciate the body we have, regardless of its form.
As well as indulging everyone's childhood dream of building their own secret hideout in a cave the host gives a successful combination of science fiction, love, and moral significance. In my opinion, it really is a tragedy that Stephanie Meyer is typically known for writing the Twilight Saga. Admittedly they are excellent books; I just wish this one had as much recognition!
The Host is an excellent book for teens or adults. It incorporates aliens, love, secret desert hideouts, ideal medicinal cures and is probably the only novel to contain a love triangle with only two bodies!
I first read I Am Number Four after watching the film, and I'm glad it was this way round, because although I knew the storyline, the book completely blew the film out of the water, as they usually do. I quite enjoyed the film so I'm glad I could enjoy it before the book made this impossible!
The book follows a completely original storyline, and is a mix between a teenage romance and science fiction. With first love and superpowers mixed together, the results are surprisingly surreal. The use of first person and present tense gives a very personal and immediate effect which allows you to become more involved with the book, taking incidences to heart, and putting you almost directly in Number Four's shoes. The effect is so powerful I found myself thrilled when I, not Number Four, finally developed telekinesis! Sad I know... It also allows secrets to be kept from the reader, if Number Four doesn't know it, neither do you and when he misinterprets other people, so do you. It lends itself to interesting and sometimes funny consequences!
The storyline follows many typical teenage subjects, and this allows the book to appeal even more greatly to teenagers, on another level, as well as being an exciting science fiction novel. Friendship is one of them, which is a new and frightening thing for Number Four, who has never been in one place long enough, or even been allowed to have friends. You could say this represents a teenagers feelings of isolation when it comes to making new friends. Usually children make and keep friends until their teenage years, when through a variety of circumstances, sometimes through moving schools or changes in interests or personalities, they find themselves needing to make new friends, and find this difficult to start with, given that they may not have made new friends in years. A similarity between Number Four and the reader is made, which makes the book more personal, and overall more enjoyable.
First love is another teenage subject presented in this book. When Number Four falls for Sarah we are shown their first date, how his feelings for her develop, how miserable he is when she goes away, and how he hates to leave her. This again parallels with normal teenage life. First loves can be terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, as well as possibly causing conflict with any ex boyfriends or ex girlfriends (Mark James, Sarah's ex). First loves are usually perfect as well. Sarah is presented as a blonde hair blue eyes beauty, Number Four as a strong independent man/boy. This represents a typical teenagers feelings towards a first love (certainly mine anyway), who is usually seen as perfect or ideal, despite any flaws. This appeals to many people because of the similarity between Number Four's love, and their own love, whether past, present, or desired for the future. It is commonly seen however that first loves can also be over dramatic, and obsessive. It is completely a matter of opinion as to whether Number Four and Sarah are genuinely in love, or if events in the sequel, The Power Of Six, prove that their relationship represents the frivolity of teenage love. This parallel of teen love is conveyed extremely well in the book, and takes advantage of the wishes of every teenage boy and girl who is searching for a first love, in order to add interest to the novel.
Number Four also has many conflicts with Henri, his Cêpan (protector, carer or father like figure) throughout the book. This can be seen as a imitation of teenage arguments with parents.
The parallels presented create a very personal book for teens. It puts a character in their position, one who has all their insecurities, thoughts and everyday arguments, as well as one who has or gains all their desires, such as finding friendship and love.
The other side to this story is obviously the science fiction. The storyline is incredibly individual, I struggle to think of anything similar, and is well put together. It will leave you ordering the sequel, and in my case, wishing the author would write faster! Typical superpowers (desired by us all, even if secretly), owned by attractive teen human-like-aliens, transforming pets, giant alien beasts, treasure chests and artefacts, as well as visions of another planet, all mean that even if you don't like sci-fi, you'll love this!
I Am Number Four has made it into my 'favourite books' section on my bookcase, which is hard to get to by the way. The fast pace thrill and 'leave you wanting even more' sci-fi nature of the book, combined with the the clever parallels to teenage fears and desires make this an awesome read.
Noughts and Crosses was a very mind opening book for me. At a young age, reading this book probably made me grow up more than anything else. It touches on so many moral dilemmas that it leaves you a very opinionated person, ready to argue the next time one of your friends tells a racist joke, scorns at the story of a young pregnant girl or says the typical, 'they should bring back capital punishment for some people'. I really can't praise this book enough and it's many layers: morals, love, friendship, teenage foolishness, general comedy, and complete heart aching sadness all make up to one fantastic read.
Through the use of split first person (where you follow more than one person through their eyes), this novel brings you to such a point of being emotionally involved, that you can't help but follow the story on the edge your seat, wondering what is going to happen to your two new best friends: Callum McGregor and Persephone (Sephy) Hadley.
The story doesn't reveal the flipped nature of society at the start, but lets you build up a picture until you finally click, white is black, and black is white. In this reversed society, it shows black people (crosses) as being dominant over white people (noughts) which is the opposite of how society used to be (thankfully everyone is entirely equal now in this country). This is confusing to start with, but eventually makes complete sense as you realise the author is simply showing you a moral point, from the other person's shoes, or skin tone, as it were. For me, this completely opened my eyes. Although it shouldn't have, this method really strengthened my already reasonably strong morals. It is possibly a sad thing to say it took a reverse of the situation to make me think, but perhaps some other people found this as well.
Many moral points are covered across it's 445 pages, the obvious main point being racism. This book is my 'moral must have' for everyone, not just teenagers, and is one of my favourites because of it. The book shows you an almost modern 1900's society, where modern technology exists, but racism is still high. People's abuse of each other, use of swear words to describe the other side (dagger for crosses and blanks for noughts), terrorists fighting in the name of equality and general social inequality are all rife in the world we have been presented. The novel causes a person to really think how unfair the world used to be, and how much better it is for social equality. As a young teen, it makes you re-think and take stock of your opinions, making you a better person. In my opinion, a book can do no better.
The next moral point presented is the idea of family, and wealth versus poverty. Sephy Hadley is rich, Callum McGregor is poor. We gain an understanding of how each character lives and I found I didn't know who to feel sorry for the most. Callum's family is extremely poor, they live off of the bare minimum and an eye opener for me was the line 'water and milk - that was all we ever had. Unless we were extra short of money, then it was just water'. However, although Callum lives in poverty, he has a loving family. Even with a sister who's not quite there, and an extremely racist brother (who upsets Callum over his disapproval of Sephy), Callum's family is presented as extremely preferable to Sephy's. Persephone Hadley is as rich as Callum is poor. Living in a mansion (drawing room and all), Sephy enjoys orange juice at every meal, and a computer in her room. This style of living, closely juxtaposed with Callum's (literally a page apart) makes you think closely about the general inequality of society, and will hopefully make you more willing to buy a 'big issue' or donate to that charity box at the corner shop. Family is also juxtaposed. Whereas in the previous chapter Callum's family laughed and fought as a family does, Sephy's family shows two isolated sisters, a soon to be alcoholic Mum (another moral point) and one very angry Dad, who is constantly away at work, and is shown to shout at Sephy in the chapter, for overhearing a conversation with a work colleague.
Terrorism play a key part in the novel, and is another of my moral points. The Liberation Militia fight for equality. Three characters in the book become involved with the group, Ryan McGregor, Jude McGregor and Callum McGregor. Terrorism is constantly in the news today, with scares featuring most commonly. With days like 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings still fresh in our mind, the book shows us the utter pointlessness of terrorism. The Liberation Militia never accomplish anything (that I can see) and they always end up hurting or even killing people. The shopping mall bombing kills many people, all to make a statement. I found myself literally asking out loud "what's the point?", and I think this is what the author intended.
One of my favourite things about this story is how it doesn't shy away from any sensitive issues. If you want a down to earth, realistic, emotionally engaging read, then this is it. It fails to shy away from issues such as racism, as well as others such as suicide and sex. Many people (parents usually) have criticised the book for featuring sex. In my opinion it was needed in order to develop the characters relationship, develop the story and also as a side point, promote contraception. Supposed rape, young pregnancy and single parenthood, which are all prominent news items today, feature as issues as well. The way these issues are seriously presented makes a teenager stop to think next time they joke about the problems, and will hopefully make them hold their tongue from insults.
Essentially you could call Noughts and Crosses a love story (even though it is so much more as well). The friendship and eventual love between Callum and Sephy is engaging, authentic and above all, tragic. The twists and turns of their relationship make for an enticing read. And although teenage love is said to be folly, this is anything but. The author has very cleverly conveyed the characters to make the story genuine in all aspects, not just their love.
My final moral point in the novel is the idea of capital punishment. One trial that takes place in the book is Ryan McGregor's and he risks capital punishment if found guilty. The threat of hanging a beloved character brings out dislike for this form of sentence, and brings the issue to the forefront of your mind during this section. However, with the help of Sephy's mother, Ryan is able to avoid the noose, but what happens to him next makes you wander if it were an accident or planned. This brings in the moral point of fair government, and made me think of amnesty international, a group which fight for human rights.
I've already said that this story doesn't shy away from issues, and the amount of sensitive moral dilemmas presented shows this. The ending leaves you heart broken, and probably crying. The ending isn't fair, but it couldn't have ended any other way. It is an immensely powerful conclusion, which completely hammers home all the moral issues presented. The moral problems conveyed throughout make you think, and hopefully, as it did for me, will make you a better person.
The second and third book of this trilogy complete a fantastic storyline which is thrilling to the last word. The second features more heavily the problems of single parenthood, and the third with issues relating to children of mixed race, and the difficulties they faced in society. As well as this more relating to the Liberation Militia is given. These two books are also fantastic. They are only slightly overshadowed by the first in the series, due to a more powerful ending, but are brilliantly written and styled. I always think the first in a series is the best anyway.
My 'moral must have' book: Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. For all those who want to laugh, cry, smile, frown, get angry, and fall in love, this book is perfect.
HouseParty 4 has been used for many things since I bought it, and yes even for a few house parties. My main use however has been for teaching dance lessons, in a studio. I find the remote is completely essential for this and the product would be a lot less useful without it.
The sound quality is beautiful, I heard things in songs I've never even noticed when listening from my laptop, or even iPod, which was a pleasant surprise! I also found that I began to prefer listening to music out loud, rather than from head phones. I found that headphones are quite constricting, and that listening to music out loud offers a completely different experience.
The station charges your iPod, has several different iPod attachments, supports radio (I have never managed to make the radio option work, although I'm sure a quick look in the manual would sort it out, should I ever feel the desire) and also looks like a great product. As weird as it sounds it also looks like a meaty speaker, so you feel like you're buying a 'big boy' product!
My only grumbles for this docking station are that although music can be heard throughout the house at full volume easily, it could do with being able to go a little louder. As well as this it doesn't support batteries. When I bought this product I chose it over the battery supporting version, and have only regretted this decision once. This product is meatier and bigger than the battery supporting version, which was my main persuader!
Upon opening the case of my iPod shuffle, I remember thinking how small it was, and how amazing it was that it could fit so many songs on it. Syncing songs did not take nearly as long as with my previously owned iPod mini, which I remember taking nearly over an hour, but then again, it took longer than my iPod touch, which had 400 songs in a minute or so.
The most usefull, well, use of the iPod shuffle is for physical activity. When I took it to the gym for the first time I completely forgot that I had an iPod attached to me, and did not hold back in running or cycling. Two years on and uncountable gym sessions, it has never yet fallen off. The handy little clip beats an arm attaching case any day. I've taken my beloved shuffle to Hadrian's wall, and on many beach visits. Happily it survived completely unscathed!
My only grumble with the shuffle, is the obvious lack of screen. I found after a while, that I wanted to pick the songs to listen to, and this is virtually impossible without memorising the position of every album, artist and individual song. A handy switch between shuffle and continuous obviously helps, but it still left me clicking through song after song to find my favourite tune.
When I first bought my iPod touch, I was amazed at how thin it seemed. I remember thinking I could probably break it in half easily, not that I was going to obviously, seeing as it set me back a considerable £250. I of course straight away bought a case and screen protectors, and once this fear of breaking was over I began to thoroughly enjoy all the touch has to offer.
The clarity of the screen is one thing I was impressed with. Having seen the first and second generation from friends at school, I was please with the improved screen. It looks as if you can push your finger into the screen and physically move apps about, the display is this realistic.
Another impressive quality that furthered my like for my new toy was the camera. Having looked up the mega pixels for the camera (a measly 0.7mp) I was pleased with the, although not quality, but speed of taking pictures. When at a fireworks show, I remember taking about 500 shots in no more than 10 minutes. You can literally take as many pictures as you like, by repeatedly pressing the capture button. Of course it does lag slightly on high demand, but it usually catches up within a few seconds.
Of course another advantage of the 32gb model is that having owned my iPod for a year, only half has been filled. Even with 847 songs, 2 videos, 627 photos, and 142 apps I still have 15.3gb left. I'd recommend this size for anyone who doesn't want some serious amount of videos, films or TV shows saved.
The use of multitasking, the recent iCloud with IOS 5, customisable wallpapers, security locks (either numerical or typed), excellent internet capabilities and WiFi, and obviously the huge variety of just about absolutely everything that Itunes has to offer at the touch of a finger, the iPod touch G4 beats just about every MP3 and previous touches on the market.
To those who have read Eragon, expertly written by Christopher Paolini, it certainly is a book that takes a while to forget about. I found after reading it I'd imagine the next phase in the story, think about the characters, laugh at funny incidences from the book (earning rather worried looks from the people around me), and generally walk around with half my mind wandering over this very well written fantasy.
Although some people run a mile at the word 'fantasy' when looking for a book to read, Eragon counted as a gentle introduction to this wide and varied genre for me. I found it has a nice amount of fantasy detail at the start to keep me interested, but not enough to overwhelm me. Later in the book, upon discovering a new love for fantasy, the book provides you with more detail of the different varieties of human like beings, dragons, and magic.
The word 'adventure' doesn't quite sum up the epic story told in this book. From heroic, heart quickening battle scenes (which had me looking for more books with battle scenes) to teenage follies and romance, Eragon quite simply has it all.
Your love for the characters grows over the novel, developing further with the use of the mind to mind contact Eragon and Saphira have, which to me made the book first person enough to make it more personal, but with a third person structure, unbiased nature and versatility which a true first person novel lacks.
There is only one drawback from this book. You will simply end up sleep deprived, having stayed up all night for 'just one more chapter', and very hungry, having missed meals because something as silly as nutrition couldn't possibly interrupt the clever story line, heart racing battles, and amusing teenage craziness.