Book Review: The Alchemist

“‘One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.'” – The Alchemist

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!

Book Review: Project Tau

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.

Series Review: Shatter Me (Books 4-6)

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 MeĀ 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Warner and Juliette are goals.
  3. Kenji and Warner’s relationship and banter was actually very entertaining
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

 

Series Review: An Ember in The Ashes

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 someĀ 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!