We can cover the facts first. My name is Sally and I’m 27 years old. I was born in Egypt and lived there until I was about 6 years old. My parents then immigrated to the United States where we set up home in Jersey City, NJ. I lived in Jersey City until it was time for me to go to college. I left and attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. I graduated from Rutgers with a mechanical engineering degree with a concentration in alternative energy studies. I started working the summer I graduated and moved out to Kansas City, MO where I lived for a little over a year. I was then relocated back to NJ by work for a year and then relocated once more to Burlington, VT.
I currently still live in Burlington and have been here for a almost 2 years. Throughout these past few years I have come across many things that I was not prepared for by school or my parents. That was my motivation to start this blog. This is a lifestyle blog as well as a way for me to help ease the growing pains of adult life for others. This blog will likely shape shift as I grow into myself some more. I love to read so there is a portion of this blog that will be dedicated to reviews of the books I have read. I am extremely passionate about fitness so I will post about my journey.
I want this blog to help motivate, inspire and create dialogue. So please, join me on this journey to figuring out my twenties!
You may or may not have noticed that I have been currently reading the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard for many weeks now. Let me explain why.
These books follow a young girl named Mare Barrow who is living in a world divided by the color of blood. There are the silver blooded folk, who wield powers that they use to keep the Reds in line. They see and paint themselves as gods. The red blooded folk are normal, no powers, and are oppressed by the Silvers who use them as sacrificial bodies in their war with other countries.
Mare comes from a poor family, as all Reds do, and she tries to help her family by stealing anything she can get her hands on. But, when her closest friend is conscripted into the army, which is almost equivalent to a death sentence, Mare gets desperate to help him. Many events find her in the presence of the Crowned Prince of her country, Tiberias Calore the Seventh or Cal as he prefers, but she doesn’t know who he is. Cal takes pity on her and gives her a job at the palace. It is during “Queen’s Trial”, or basically a show noble girls put on so the high Lords of the country can choose who is the best queen for the crown prince, that Mare discovers she has powers matching Silvers. This happens in the public eye so the King and Queen decide to claim her as Silver and hide her right under everyone’s nose as the second prince’s, Maven, betrothed.
Throughout these books, we follow Mare as she struggles with betrayal, trust, love, injustice and leading a rebellion of Reds vs Silvers.
Now, let me start by saying, the first book was actually pretty good. It was slow starting but had a crazy twist at the end. I picked up the second book expecting some crazy stuff to go down but every page of the second, third and fourth book was dry and fairly predictable. There was a chapter in one of those books where it was mid climactic battle, and I found myself dragging myself to get through it. The last book was WAY too long and took me almost a month to get through because I wasn’t very excited about it.
The characters were trying to be developed but it was honestly hard to root for anyone in this series. Cal was wishy-washy in all his decisions. Mare fell flat, she was single toned and when she finally developed out of her one tone, it was abrupt and difficult to swallow. There were some characters who were introduced too quickly later in the series and I found myself indifferent about their plots.
One thing I did enjoy, was that Aveyard painted a very clear picture of systemic oppression that is built to keep the masses down.
Overall, I did not enjoy this series and would not recommend picking it up. My sister and I started this series together and she quit in the first few chapters of book two. That was when I recruited another friend of mine to read it with me and she agreed that she only powered through because she was bored during quarantine.
I would say skip this series, not too much here to jump into.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a beautiful story that I personally believe is one of those books that will keep on giving for as many times as you come back to it.
The story follows a young shepherd from Spain named Santiago who is quite content with the life he leads. He one day dreams of finding treasure at the pyramids of Egypt. He later meets a man that tells him of “Personal Legends” which are our hearts’ true passions. Santiago decides to follow his dream to Egypt to pursue what he believes to be his Personal Legend. As Santiago sets off on the adventure of his life to chase his dream, the book takes the reader along for the ride of hardships and unforeseen circumstances that befall him.
On the surface, this book is about a boy chasing treasure. But throughout the entire story, there are small tidbits of advice that far outreach any coming of age novel I have ever read. The story, at its core, is about living life fully. At every turn of the page, there is a quote that is unbearably truthful and relevant to the life any one of us is living today. Just a few pages into this book, I got a solid slap in the face by the quote “‘It’s this; that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.'” I mean, let’s stop there for a second and reflect. That quote ALONE is enough to send someone into an existential crisis! Or, in my case, open my eyes to the way I have been living.
Day in and day out many of us find ourselves falling victim to the current of life, being dragged along with no control of where we’re going. We follow a preset list of “we should” vs listening to our hearts and really asking “what do I want”. And sometimes, when we find a dream that makes our hearts beat to a different tune, we abandon it because it scares us half to death, because it’s uncertain. There is a section of The Alchemist where Santiago is learning how to communicate and listen to his heart. The pages were so powerful because Coelho gives dialogue to Santiago’s heart and I found myself thinking what my heart would say to me if it could speak only to then smack myself in the forehead because DUH! my heart can speak, if only I would listen.
I cannot stress enough how much every single person should find a copy of The Alchemist in their hands at one point or another in their lives. The ending is so genius in its simplicity because it only underlines the theme of this book so severely. The journey is the point of this life, not what we find at the destination but what we learn on our way there.
I have read about people who read The Alchemist once a year, and I can without question see why. This book is a necessary add to everyone’s collection!
Project Tau by Jude Austin is a story about a regular boy named Kalin Taylor who gets himself into a ton of trouble by accident. The book starts out with a prologue that is vague to the reader as we do not yet have background to who these characters are. All we can really pull from these pages is that chaos has ensued but are unsure who the protagonists and the antagonists are. Obviously, since the book is called Project Tau we have a hunch whose side we should be on.
This story is set many years in the future, the year is approximately 3389 when the chapters begin counting. Kalin has just arrived at Sanderson College of Arts and Sciences (SACAS) from his home planet, Trandelia. He is nerdy and has little to no friends. Kalin decides that the best way to rectify this is to join a frat. He approaches the guys of the Phi Mu Alpha frat house about pledging and they, in turn, tell him that he needs to submit a picture of himself with Project Tau as a kind of entrance token. We gather that Project Tau is a government classified project and we have the prologue from which we can identify him. Once Kalin pursues this mission, he is captured by the leaders of the space station which houses Project Tau and held captive. We then follow his story through the following two years of what he is made to face.
Austin has a unique concept that she is laying out to readers in Project Tau. It is the basic metaphor of man versus government. She tells the story of someone who is powerless to what occurs to him and is finally pushed so far, he starts to push back. This metaphor is not unique or innovative, but the approach is interesting. As I read through this book, I found myself outraged at what happened to Kalin Taylor. I have not come across a book that shows this kind of oppression without first giving a back story. There is no legitimate reason, whether it is justified or not, as to why Kalin has to go through the events laid out in the book. I came face to face with the idea that the government does not need a reason to oppress and usually does not have one. The lies that are spun and sold to Kalin are hard to swallow but they make the reader reflect on how many lies have been fed to us that we willingly accepted. Also, I loved that even though I read the events that led Kalin to his precarious situation, Austin’s writing still left me wondering if he really was a clone the whole time! It was awesome story telling on her part.
What I liked least about Project Tau was that the ending was given away in the prologue. Even though when I first read the prologue I was unaware what was actually happening, as I advanced through the book I was able to piece it together. The story was fun and exciting but it felt like I was safe from really falling off the cliff into the story because I already knew what was going to happen. I can appreciate a book that is written to draw a parallel to current injustices but I wish Austin had made us work for the ending instead of just giving it away.
I recommend reading this book as it does get the mind rolling about media and government information sharing or lack thereof. However, I would recommend skipping the prologue and jumping back over to it after chapter thirteen if you want a more exciting story that you can be fully invested in.
So, these are definitely the set of books that I prefer in the Shatter Me saga. Again, spoilers ahead for both the 1st and 2nd set of the Shatter Me books. But I will try not to give it all away!
In these books, Juliette and crew have overthrown the Reestablishment regime in Sector 45, with Warner by their side. They have killed Anderson and Juliette has declared herself Supreme Commander of North America. Things start getting really weird when the children of the other Supreme Commanders start arriving at Sector 45. Eventually we learn that they are there to spy on Juliette and the crew and report back to their parents. Restore Me is very slow to be honest. The only super critical event that happens is when Juliette gets kidnapped in the last, I don’t know ten pages?
Any way, it picks up after that as we learn that Juliette is not actually who we think she is and has a whole history with the children of the other Supreme Commanders, including Warner! A whole chain of events unfold from the kidnapping that ultimately leads the crew to the final battle for the world. Juliette finds out she has a sister who is essentially The Reestablishment’s secret weapon and they have been draining the life out of her to use her to their advantage.
These books are more fun than the first set for a few reasons.
- Juliette is no longer a scared and helpless little girl. She finally starts to face the demons inside her and take charge of them, even if she can’t drive them out fully. She really comes into herself and her powers and I enjoyed reading a version of her that is powerful and strong.
- Warner and Juliette are goals.
- Kenji and Warner’s relationship and banter was actually very entertaining
- Mafi starts to pull on our heartstrings a bit as we read about Juliette’s frankly traumatic upbringing and how far The Reestablishment would go for their own gain. The struggle between science and emotional ties is so stark in this story and it really starts to make you wonder, how far would I go?
A few critiques:
- Some Warner/Juliette plot lines were so forced, I just wanted to cut them out of the story. The whole situation with Warner’s ex-girlfriend? Come on, that was so middle school it made me roll my eyes.
- Anderson coming back to life like 12,983 times? It got so predictable by the time I was reading Imagine Me that it became a bit of a joke to me.
- Some decisions the crew made throughout these books were unforced errors to be honest and they just didn’t always match the picture that Mafi tried to draw of these characters sometimes.
Overall, I enjoyed the 2nd set in this saga. If they were stand alone, they would have been stronger than the 1st set. The ending of Imagine me brought me to tears, because I have a sister (you’ll understand when you read it). And the fact that Mafi brought us back full circle to the white bird with the gold crown atop its head and completely hit us over the head with a new metaphor, that is what I call good writing.
What did you all think? Let me know!
Any suggestions for what to read next? Any one want to start reading a book together? Let me know in the comments!
To start out, please note that I don’t think I am a good enough writer to be able to share this review with you all without spoilers. So, please beware! Spoilers ahead!
Where to start with the Shatter Me series? Well let me start by saying that the first three books and the last three books are two very different stories. Central characters are the same but the events and central story are very different. So, I will only be addressing the first three books in this review or it would just take too long to explain everything!
We meet Juliette Ferrars, in a world that is dying due to human pollution. There are no more birds, animals are scarce and the weather is unpredictable. Juliette is locked up in basically an insane asylum because she has killed a little boy, accidentally. Juliette suffers from a strange affliction that makes her touch lethal to all. She is, obviously, extremely scarred by not only accidentally killing a child and not being able to touch anyone, but as we find out also because of her abusive parents. Juliette is scared and alone and continues to dream of a white bird with a gold crown on its head which at first, symbolizes the freedom she longs for, or at least I thought so in the first three books.
Juliette suddenly gets a guest in her cell. Adam, who she recognizes eventually as a boy she used to go to school with, gets tossed in with her and she can’t understand why. Eventually, Juliette and Adam are released and Juliette finds out that Adam is actually a soldier in The Reestablishment. The Reestablishment is a regime that took over the planet in promises to undo the human damage that was done and return the world to how it used to be but surprise, surprise, they’re a bunch of lying assholes who just wanted to take over the world.
Juliette discovers that Adam’s commander, Warner (um yeah please remember him), sent him to do recon on Juliette in her cell only to release her and take her into his own custody to use her powers as a weapon for the reestablishment’s agenda. But, plot twist, Adam and Warner can touch her.
Throughout the three books, Juliette goes through a journey of discovering the power she holds within herself. She has kept people at bay for so long that she has to learn how to let them in so they can work together to overthrow The Reestablishment. She also has to learn to decouple herself from the scared little girl who shied away from everything and tried to make herself as small as possible for everyone else’s benefit.
I enjoyed these books for a few reasons:
- They are a really easy read and super fun to get through
- I love the way Mafi uses the language she writes with to reflect what is happening in Juliette’s mind (My sister and I are in disagreement on this point, she is not a fan)
- Warner. Duh, he is everything, even though he is just as messed up as Juliette (I am a sucker for a tortured and misunderstood soul)
- It seems a bit too “middle school” at times. The dialogue between the characters is often not representative of the personalities Mafi draws up for us
- The plot builds to a bit of a disappointing climax. I mean, I guess it makes sense after the last three books come out, but I know these were a bit of an add on.
As a stand alone trilogy, these books are fun. However, I am personally more of a fan of the 2nd set.
What did you guys think? Which of the two sets was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
A quick call out before I start: This series is not yet concluded as of the time I am writing this review. So, I am writing based on the first three books only. There are also some light spoilers in this review.
An Ember in The Ashes By Sabaa Tahir follows a young girl named Laia whose family and her people, the Scholars, have been torn apart at the hands of The Empire. The Empire is an oppressive regime that has taken over the land and enslaved or imprisoned almost all of the Scholars. Laia suddenly finds herself apart from her brother, the only family she has left, who was imprisoned by The Empire because of knowledge he possesses that can be critical to the rebellion against The Empire. In her quest to find and free her brother, Darin, Laia crosses paths with Elias.
Elias Veturius is finishing his final year at Blackliff Academy which breeds Masks. The Masks are the most terrifying and lethal soldiers in The Empire and will stop at nothing to carry out the orders they are given. But Elias is different. He does not embrace the side of him that Blackliff has created, he is gentle and kind and wishes to leave The Empire all together. But he is trapped in this world he was forced into.
When Laia and Elias meet, they are two very similar people, who are living two very different lives. Both Laia and Elias feel oppressed and stuck in a world they did not ask for. But Elias has power and Laia feels helpless. As the series goes on, they find they will play very important roles in each others’ journey to freedom from their oppressors.
The very interesting thing about this series is the world that Tahir creates. I listened to a podcast that she was hosted on and she spoke about her background, her family is from Pakistan. She spoke about how she modeled The Empire oppressors after the political strife she came to know within her culture. Laia struggles with this so much throughout the series, the notion of “Why is it always my people who suffer”. That struck me because, doesn’t everyone feel like that sometimes? Whether they are right or wrong or the severity of the oppression varies, we have all found ourselves in some kind of situation where we have asked “Why me” or “Why us”. I think that makes this story relatable to so many readers on so many different levels.
Aside from that, I personally do not enjoy Laia and Elias as characters. Elias is loyal to a fault and finds himself denying so much of what he wants and who he is because of who he thinks he has to be for everyone around him. It gets repetitive and sometimes irritating. In Book 3, I think he started to explore this more and I hope that in Ember #4 he will finally realize what he wants and what he needs to do to get it. Laia falls a bit flat to me but I believe this is written on purpose. Her character development occurs to an extent throughout the books but I think she is still lost in her world trying to figure out what the role she plays really is. And aren’t we all doing the same on some level?
My FAVORITE character is Helene Aquilla. Oh, Helene. Her character development is downright amazing to follow, in my humble opinion. Helene is Elias’s best friend and she has to face so many horrifying things because she is trying to protect Elias from himself. I can’t say much about what she goes through without giving the central plot away but I can say that she is an amazing pillar of strength. And her love for Elias makes her so accessible, especially when it is not reciprocated in the way she desires. Her loyalty digs her into some deep pits that she has to climb out of. But, I am most excited to read about what becomes of her in Ember #4.
Overall, Tahir creates an awesome story that is extremely difficult to put down. There are currently teasers going around about the cover art of Ember #4 and I am already so excited to read it. This is a must read to jump into a world of political strife, love, pain, jealousy and almost everything else in between. You are guaranteed to find a favorite character within this crew.
Let me know what you all thought about this series and how much are anticipating Ember #4!
I know what you’re thinking. What in all of the hell could that title possibly mean? I know, I know. What’s crazy about the story I am about to share is that it happened almost 5 back and I just finally picked the lesson out of it 2 weeks ago. Isn’t it insane how our minds work? What I actually mean is, isn’t it insane how our minds work once we learn to reflect?
Here’s how it all went down:
My first job out of college was in a factory, as a production supervisor overseeing all of the employees who run the lines. It was a hard role for a few reasons.
- I had no idea how to manage people, what motivated them, what they hated, how to read the team, etc. (5 years later and the only thing I have learned about managing a team is that it is difficult)
- The factory was in commissioning which means that the lines were brand new and we were just learning how to run them.
- I was literally just months out of college and I didn’t even know who I was let alone how to conduct myself properly to get the outcome I wanted (Still working on this by the way)
Just picture this: 22 year old who barely knows how to keep the peace leading a team of approx 40 people who are still unfamiliar with the lines they are trying to work. Overall, it was just a recipe for a bad time and saying morale was low was probably the understatement of the decade. In an effort to combat the low morale and increase productivity, our manager put out a challenge. The challenge basically boiled down to whichever shift can hit a specific line efficiency percentage would get a steak dinner for everyone on the shift.
Weeks went by and no one even got close. Until one night, things were actually going right for us. I remember being extremely on edge and suspicious of what was happening because I had never seen all the lines run at the same time. There was always at least 1 line down at any given point in the night. But, the team did it. They somehow managed to pull 40% efficiency out of their butt and they were all so happy. I had never seen them so fired up! They were walking off the shift stopping by my office to let me know how excited they were for the steak dinner, it was so awesome.
The next day for our team meeting with the department manager I said “We can’t wait for that steak dinner” when he asked for other business for the meeting agenda. He simply replied back “Yeah, no, that’s not going to happen”. I honestly had no idea what was happening and ended up replying back “What do you mean? that’s bullshit!” Again – remember I was 22 and just could not conduct myself properly but it really was bullshit. Now, I can’t stress enough how inappropriate his reply back to me was and if this ever happens to you guys at work, you should take a serious stand and this should be escalated. He said “I can’t believe you’re this f***king stupid”. I LOST it. Partially because I did not take well to the way he talked to me but mostly because I was SO disappointed for my team and I knew this was just the wrong move if we truly wanted to raise morale. But, he wasn’t budging and I just ended up feeling like absolute garbage. The worst part was, I had to look at my team and tell them it just wasn’t going to happen and I had no explanation for them.
I imagined the team being so disappointed in me for not being able to get this secured for them and I carried the burden of how much that would backslide all the progress we had made. Instead, the team was thanking me for standing up for them. I was so confused how they even found out what happened during the meeting. Turns out one of the team members that were in the room relayed it to the shift lead who worked with me and it spread from there. I was still so disappointed in the fact that they didn’t get the steak dinner that I missed the whole lesson here.
Courage does not feel good. Not always, at least. In this case I left the meeting defeated, disappointed and honestly enraged and frustrated. But, my team recognized my courage and appreciated me as a leader for it. I always thought that whenever I acted in a courageous way, it would feel amazing. I would have light coming out of me or a spotlight on me or something grand and heroic. But I felt like crap. Until I reflected on the situation and really thought about the fact that even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, this was a turning point for my team and I. This was when they started to trust me, this was when they truly felt like I was going to go to bat for them when I believed it was right.
Don’t be courageous because it will make you feel like a good person, or because you think it will end up working out positively for you in the end. Be courageous because it is the right thing to do. When it feels like it is you against the world, be courageous. When it feels like it will never get better, be courageous. When you feel like it will haunt you if you don’t, be courageous.
I want to start by saying that I know that this series is a huge commitment, especially because the final book, Kingdom of Ash, looks more like an encyclopedia than an enjoyable read but just stay with me here and watch me try to explain how I feel about this series without trying to spoil it all for you if you haven’t read it.
I was originally introduced to Sarah J. Maas’s work via the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, and I’m not going to give too much away here because I will do a separate review on that series, but let’s just say I was legitimately having withdrawals when I finished that series. Anyway, so naturally I went searching for something else to read that made me feel the same way I felt when living through Feyre’s adventures.
Through my research, the Throne of Glass series came up and it turned out I had already read the first book way back when there was ONLY a first book. When I realized the commitment I was signing up for, I shied away and honestly thought “I really don’t have time for this right now”. But a friend of mine was raving about the series so I decided to give it ago and said goodbye to the next few months of free time (I am a serial reader, if you have not caught on yet).
The book Throne of Glass follows a young assassin named Celaena Sardothian who is in a heavily guarded basically death prison. The book starts with an arrogant prince (Dorian) and his puppy dog Captain of the guard (Chaol) who show up to the death prison (Endovier) to release Celaena only so she can be Dorian’s champion in his dad’s competition. The winner of this competition basically becomes the king’s assassin on retainer for the next few years (4 years I think it is). We follow the tale of Celaena through this book as she uncovers some really strange stuff that is going down in the castle as the competition takes place and she figures out her role in all of it.
Long story short, after the first book we are following Celaena basically try to solve a mystery to explain why all this weird stuff is going down and why it keeps happening near her (I want to elaborate but there are no spoilers in this review!).
This series is full of plot twists that actually had me just staring at the last page of some of these books going “I am SO glad I don’t have to wait for the next book to be released”. Most of the time, I bought the book following the one I was reading well before I was done because who even knew where I would be and if I would have access to a bookstore the second I finished the book I was reading. I traveled to Greece with the Queen of Shadows book unread and I finished it just as we got to the airport to get back to the US (thanks to the ferry rides between islands! Greece was amazing, and I think everyone should visit). I was heartbroken because I had to wait 14 hours until I picked up the next book, poor planning on my part. But the story is captivating to say the least. Celaena was such an interesting character and her development throughout the series stays true to who she is and what we love about her in the first book but allows for her growth at the same time. And I love me an arrogant female heroine!
- The 6th book in the series Tower of Dawn felt a bit like Sarah’s editors just wanted to extend the series to make more money. I think the story could have been told simultaneously as the other events of book 5 were taking place. I liked the story and what was happening and some parts were vital to the plot but I would say about 75% of that book was fluff.
- These characters were awesome and I really enjoyed their different personalities but they were heavily resembling the A Court of Thorns and Roses crew with some minor tweaks. Sarah loves her goofballs
All in all I highly recommend this series. It’s so worth the time. I could be a bit biased because of how much I loved the A Court of Thorns and Roses but I can see myself at some point starting up this series again.
What did you guys think?! Let me know in the comments I am dying to discuss this series with anyone!
The BBG 12 week challenge is starting up tomorrow, and I’m really excited about this.
There isn’t much to this challenge really, it’s very much business as usual like any other time you would be using the app. However, Kayla Itsines, the creator of the program, is doing it alongside the millions of people taking up this challenge. The reason this excites me is very simply the motivation aspect of it.
Motivation is a tricky thing, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s there and the next day it’s not. If everyone could just turn on and keep their motivation on, we’d all have accomplished every single goal we’ve ever had in our lives. That’s the challenge; the days where you feel like “If I have to do this, I’m going to lose my damn mind”, how do you get past it? How do you push through and try to just get it done even when it’s the last thing you want to do?
For me, I like to keep a few motivational tactics in my back pocket. Having millions of other people pushing through the same workouts that I am trying to at the same time is HUGE. It’s a gigantic community of people who also have days where they don’t feel like doing the workout, but seeing them do it is so inspirational.
Kayla recommended a reflection prior to the start of the challenge. She said to write down how we feel about ourselves currently and how confident we are right this second. Having been through the full 12 weeks of BBG before, I am a testament to the direct correlation between self confidence and the progression of this program. By the time week 12 rolled around, I couldn’t stop looking at my reflection thinking “Holy shit, look how different I look” and I CANNOT wait for that again. So I started the program last week 🙂
If you are thinking of joining the challenge, I highly recommend you jump on it and let’s get through it together and look back 3 months from now thanking our past selves for making this decision!!