The Final Empire: Mistborn Book 1

One thing that I adore about going on holiday is the complete isolation from technology – which, I’ll admit, I sometimes love but sometimes don’t. For the past 10 days I’ve been lucky enough to be in France with my parents sunbathing and, more importantly, reading. 5 books later, I’m here to tell you about one of them that stood out and I don’t feel has had enough recognition.

It’s not often that I come across a book which reminds me why I love reading so much and also makes me want to write something in the hopes that it will be as great as this one. Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy trilogy overturns the expectations of readers and then goes on to tell the epic story of evil overturned in a richly imagined world.

A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields.

But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy – the magic that lies in all metals.

I know, I know, yet another fantasy but bear with me, you won’t regret it. At least, I hope you won’t.

The blurb on the back of the book gives away a lot less than the one above does – which I found on Amazon for those of you who are curious, though I don’t see why you would be – and the main message is ‘What if the dark lord won?’. That was the line that got my attention.

Sanderson creates this world that feels almost apocalyptic in nature, with ash constantly falling from the sky and the thought of a blue sky being ridiculous. You’re introduced to a clear divide between the noblemen, who are said to have sided with this novel’s own dark lord, the Lord Ruler, and the Skaa, the people who have essentially been forced into slavery and poverty.

However, there are whispers of rebellion by a particularly charming troublemaker who enlists the help of a mismatched group of friends and a Skaa thief, who is worth a lot more than you might first think.

Upon starting this book, I basically knew nothing. It came up as a recommendation for me and a particular book reviewer I like mentioned it as one of her favourite fantasy reads. How could I resist? I’ll have to admit, though, that I read this as quickly as I anticipated. The first part of the novel focuses on introducing you to the setting, characters and several story lines (along with some seriously fantastical elements). As I had no clue where it was all going, I could appreciate that it was well written and imaginative but it didn’t grip me.

I was so unprepared for part two.

Oh my goody gumdrops did that take off. The book is separated into several different parts, and I think it’s just so you can take a breather. The action scenes are so fast paced and exciting that I was literally on the edge of my seat, biting my fingernails, desperate to see what would happen. So many twists and turns, surprises around every corner, to the point that if someone tried to talk to me I had to shoo them away because I seriously did not have time for any interruptions. Part One may have taken me a while to get through, but once I hit that first action scene? Jeez, I read as fast as I could turn pages.

I’m forcing myself to stay away from spoilers, but I still want to give you some ideas as to what you might find within this fantastic book. First of all there’s a great development within a young female character, and as you read on you feel some serious awesome vibes from her.

The ‘magic’ within the novel, called Allomancy, had me confused at it’s first demonstration but, once it was explained later on all I could think was wow, that’s clever. Serious respect for Brandon Sanderson at this point, and I’m ordering the sequels as I write. I’ve always been curious as to what would happen if the ‘bad side’ won, and to see this idea as to what could happen was just brilliant to read.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I absolutely recommend this book without hesitation to anyone interested in fantasy whatsoever. It’s just so clever and good and the twists had me screaming, crying, or just holding up my hands to scream ‘WHY?!’. Basically, you should go read it.

Seriously though.

Go.

READ IT.

The Princess Bride

Everyone always talks about how the book is ‘so much better’ than its film adaptation, but in all honesty I never realised that the iconic film The Princess Bride was a book. Originally written by Morgenstern, this text was later abridged by William Goldsmith and I have to say that seeing the film first didn’t spoil my reading of the book at all.

The Princess Bride is a satire, and a brilliant one at that. I seem to have entered a fairy-tale/fantasy splurge of reading, following on from The Night Circus and A Court of Thorns and Roses, so you can tell that they are my favourite genres.

Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts – who never leaves survivors – her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have Buttercup. So starts a fairytale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles.

I find it ridiculous that someone could read this book and not laugh, grow teary eyed or even a little nostalgic. A relative who hadn’t heard of this book or it’s film counterpart didn’t understand, their eyebrows practically merged with their hairline at the blurb depicting a tale about a girl called Buttercup in love with her farm boy whom she loses to a pirate. I mean, come on! This tale is just such a – excuse my French – piss-take of every fairy tale you’ve ever seen. Not only that, but it just has everything: romance, adventure, action, giants, fencing, torture-chambers, giant rodents and more.

So why read the abridged version some of you may ask? Well, for a start, it’s a hell of a lot shorter than the original. Goldsmith writes throughout the narrative in his own voice, marked by italics, to either comment on Morganstern’s technique or explain why he’s missed out a large chunk of the original. I found his side-notes and introduction actually quite wonderful, as if you were reading alongside someone who was ready to tell you some more of the context or say something witty. They were light interludes between action-packed scenes, and also incredibly interesting. For example, one comment explains that he doesn’t include pages and pages of the original due to reasons like it is all to do with packing. Can you imagine? Pages and pages of just reading someone packing every item they own and then unpacking it all again? As Vizzini might say, inconceivable!

For those who are more culturally aware of this book, you might be wondering what the point is of reading this abridged book when you’ve already seen – and adored – the film. Yes, there are scenes that are so recognisable such as the Cliffs of Insanity or the Fire Swamp, with the famous lines like ‘As you Wish’ or ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die’. I have to say, as a lover of the film, I didn’t think the book would top it – but it does. It has those fantastic lines and scenes, but it has even more! There are small context points that you never see in the film, for example you get the background tales from Fezzik and Inigo. If you didn’t think you could love these characters more, you’re completely wrong. I’d recommend this book in a heartbeat for lovers of the film and anyone up for a fantastic, hilarious fairy tale satire. The ridiculous lines, the exaggerated scenes and oversize rats just make this tale what it is: a beautiful piece of literature.

I just don’t understand how you can’t love it. Or that may be because you’re not the action, adventure, hilarious, awesome type. Please, just go read it!

So let me know what you think – whether you’ve read the book, the film or neither and if you plan to read it in the future! I’d love to hear your comments, and even recommendations for books to read (even though my to-be-read pile is growing every day).

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Fairytales. I love them. Why wouldn’t you love a place where if you somehow fit yourself into a rabbit hole, you end up in a new world or where it doesn’t matter if you die because some charming bloke might come along, give you a kiss and hey presto, you’re alive and now have a perfect boyfriend? Needless to say, I’ve always loved a good disney movie or magical tale where good (almost always) triumphs and everyone is happy happy happy.

There is, however, something I love even more – and that is modern adaptations and the retelling of fairytales. You recognise some of the elements, but only as a background thought because you truly have no idea how it’s going to end. Ok, so those films like Snow White and the Huntsman or Maleficent and the like are pretty standard in their adaptations, in the sense that you still know the characters and pretty much what’s going to happen. However, there are very few books that can do a fairytale retelling and make you forget that that’s what it is. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Written by the brilliant Sarah J. Maas, known for her fantastic Throne of Glass series, this retelling of Beauty and the Beast is fantastically brilliant. My favourite books that include faeries, or ‘The Fae’, still remain as the Iron King series by Julie Kagawa, most likely due to the fact that they were among the first I read so I have some nostalgia for them. Sarah J. Maas, however, has definitely claimed her place among my favourite reads, let alone favourite Fae reads. She has a perfect blend of fantasy and magic with action, adventure with that sprinkle of romance to whisk you away to another world. Her writing style is just beautiful with exquisite detail that maintains this fast pace into this new world. She builds up each scene until you’re flipping through the pages at the speed of light, devouring every word.

Feyre is a great lead character but clearly has a lot of room for development for the next books in the trilogy. Her circumstances force her to be a Katniss-like figure, hunting in the dangerous woods and providing for her family where there are other fairytale elements – for example, her two sisters almost act like the typical ‘evil stepsisters’ but in a much more realistic way. Instead of just insults and jeers, there is a complex background and history to their family relationships which only brings the story to life.

As said in the blurb, Feyre (I think it’s pronounced Fay-rah, but I’ll get back to you on that one) is taken to magical, yet sinister, Fae realm/territory and her captor’s face is covered by a strange mask. From here, you delve into a strange mystery with new plot twists at every chapter. Maas adds elements to the story like logs to a fire, so where you started with a small flame you’re left with a raging bonfire as the tale builds and builds.

I read this book in one sitting, unsurprisingly, and would definitely recommend to anyone interested in fantasy and mystery. It transforms any notions of faeries being small and sparkly people with wings and fairy dust into these terrifying, ruthless monsters that use trickery to cause pain for their viewing pleasure. A brilliant read and an easy five stars from me.

The Night Circus

Every now and then you come across a book that reminds you why it is that you adore reading. A few of my friends had recommended The Night Circus so I’d bought it, yet it remained on my ‘To Be Read’ shelf for quite a while. I picked it up just before exams and so read the first few chapters before having to put it down again, leaving the rest as a post-exam reward. Honestly, I had no idea what I was expecting when I started this book – all I knew was that it was a circus that travelled around the world, open only at night. Personally, I think that was possibly the best way to approach this masterpiece of a book.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn

As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

Le Cirque des Rêves

The Circus of Dreams.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.

This blurb perfectly prepares you for the fantastical world you’re about to discover, filled with mystery and intrigue. If I had to sum this book up with one word, it would be ‘enchanting’. I’m wary of saying anything more about the actual plot of the novel, as really it’s about discovering for yourself and trying to figure out what on earth is going on as you read.

I think my favourite thing about this book is the world that Erin creates. When I do my own writing, I often struggle to add enough detail about a particular scene and gloss over minor details – clearly, this is not something Erin Morgenstern does. Every setting is filled with enough description to help you visualise such a wondrous place, yet not so much that it deters you from reading more. I think it’s a combination of the imaginative scenes, the wonderful characters and that constant element of mystery which allow this book to be such a masterpiece.

I would recommend this book to anyone, and especially if you’re interested in a little bit of magic or fantasy. I know that I’ve barely said anything about this book other than how great it is, but that’s because I don’t want to ruin it for other readers! With something like The Night Circus, you just need to go pick it up and read it to see for yourself, then shove it in everyone’s face and scream, ‘You must read this book!’.

So, Miss Morgenstern, I bestow upon you five glimmering, fantastical stars – and also a request that this is made into a movie. Please.

Introductions and All I Know Now

Hi everyone and welcome to Always Love to Read….a Lot. If you want to know a bit about me, visit the ‘About El’ page or drop a comment below if there’s a question burning on your mind, such as ‘What is your favourite flavour of Ben &Jerry’s Ice cream?’. (The answer is Caramel Chew Chew, of course). This blog is the product of another, my original site alwayslovetowrite which was a place where, obviously, I wanted to write. With writing comes reading, and as alwayslovetowrite has become a sort of online diary, I decided I needed a different place to geek out about books. Which brings us to now.

So to kick this off, I’d like to start with a book that released last month and is already the Sunday Times #1 best seller: All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher. Carrie is known for being a YouTube sensation, singer, songwriter, actress, Eponine in Les Mis in London and now an author. I personally first discovered Carrie on YouTube, and then I was hooked by the bubbly personality which always helped to brighten my day. I’m unashamed that at eighteen-going-on-nineteen, having Carrie as a role model helped me to keep strong on days when I wanted to give up. I, like everyone else, wanted to be her best friend, to hear all her stories and soak up all her advice. Now, with All I Know Now, that’s possible.

We all know that growing up is hard to do, and sometimes the only thing that makes it better are the reassuring words of someone who has walked that bumpy road just a few steps ahead of you and somehow ended up as a fully-functioning adult. Carrie Hope Fletcher is that person. Thanks to her phenomenally popular YouTube videos, Carrie has become an ‘honorary big sister’ to hundreds of thousands of young people who turn to her for advice, friendship and, most of all, the knowledge that things will get better.

Carrie has created a safe and positive space for young people to connect and share their hopes and concerns online, and now she will share her most personal thoughts and experiences in her first book, ALL I KNOW NOW. It includes Carrie’s thoughts on some of the topics she’s asked about most regularly: bullying, body image, relationships and perhaps the scariest question of all: what does the future hold for me? With warmth, wit and a sprinkling of hard-won wisdom, Carrie will provide the essential tools for growing up gracefully . . . most of the time.

My only negative about this book is that it wasn’t published sooner. Andrew Kaufman’s comment that this is a ‘best friend in book form’ is spot on. As you read, Carrie’s voice shines through in every word and will have you laughing with her, crying for her and loving every second. I want to tell girls younger than me to go out and grab this book, read every word and carry it with you whenever you need some advice. It’s easy enough to hear someone tell you that they’ve been through what you have, but to read about it in a raw, nothing held back prose. There are so many times through secondary school when I couldn’t help but wonder ‘am I the only one’ and want to go to bed, pull my duvet over my head and hide from the world. To read Carrie’s experiences and find some so like my own – and others completely not – it helped to see my own from a different perspective. It’s of course easy to say now that I would have done differently, but I’d like to think that if I had read Carrie’s book when I needed it, maybe i would have been able to deal with my problems more easily. Hell, there were even chapters on how to apologise that I approached thinking ‘I know this’, but when I finished I realised that there’s a lot I still don’t know.

Sure, if you’re a girl or boy in school then I’d recommend this book with all my heart and if you’re not in school, then I’d recommend this book anyway. It doesn’t matter how old you are – anyone can read this book and end up with a smile on your face. After seeing Carrie’s journey through YouTube, famously achieving her childhood dream of becoming Eponine in the West End, she was already inspiring. The awe only increased when one of my best friends took me to see her last week in Les Miserables and then to briefly meet her at her book signing (both of which were incredible). But often when you have these public figures, you forget that they were once young kids and teenagers who dealt with bullies just like you. This book is more than just a few pages bound together – it’s a place to turn to when you’re feeling down, when you need advice or even when you just want a bit of a giggle.

Thank you Carrie – I hope to read more from you soon.

You’ve got five, big, fat, shining stars.

That’s all from me today. Thanks for reading and, if you so wish, leave a comment, a favourite or even subscribe – there’s more books to come.