The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsPaulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Feelings: I read this book for the first time during my sophomore year of high school. It was one of our assigned readings in my English II class and I remember really loving it. I couldn’t remember WHY I loved it, though, so I decided to give it a second read.

It’s a good book. It’s definitely a more philosophical story, rather than a traditional structured plot. Santiago speaks to the wind, to his heart, and to the desert, digging deep into metaphors and symbolism. It’s not exactly an easy read until the end. As everything gets more interesting and the plot picks up, I felt the need to continue reading. Before then, though, I was easily able to put it down and not return to it for a while.

Issues: The book is certainly slow at times and a bit repetitive. Santiago comes back to various quotes that the old king said to him, but he says them word for word over and over again. At some points, it makes you want to say, “Yes, yes, we know.” They’re insightful thoughts that are repeated, but they just get a little old.

By the end, it still doesn’t necessarily feel like anything happened. Sure, he travels a far distance, meeting interesting people along the way and getting himself into tricky situations, but it still feels stagnant.

Characters: Santiago is an innocent boy and it is a sweet journey that we take with him. He just wants to find purpose and love as he travels for his Personal Legend. He makes simple decisions and thinks things through. He’s a very easy character to follow. I enjoyed seeing him discover ancient truths and get more in touch with himself.

Final thoughts: This book has a good audiobook version, as well, narrated by Jeremy Irons. His voice adds a lot of depth to the words and helps ground the storyline. Overall, I like this book. It’s one that I’ll probably come back to a few times over the course of my life.

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Recommend to Friends

I don’t know if it’s because I review books for fun or if it’s because I spend all day around literature, but I always have friends and coworkers asking me for book recommendations. It’s probably just because I read a lot and can instantly think of a few books off hand that they’d like. I’ve chosen 5 books from different genres that I frequently force lovingly place into people’s hands…then I anxiously await their verdict.

landline

Landline by Rainbow Rowell — Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

I’m a Rainbow Rowell fan. I’ve listed her as one of my auto-buy authors and I’ve read everything she’s come out with so far. This particular book is about Georgie McCool (which is such a great character name), whose marriage is in trouble. Through an old landline phone, Georgie is able to communicate with her husband though the past, understanding the depths of their relationship and the root of their troubles. I really loved this book. It was so fresh and different from anything else I’d read. This is a book that I typically recommend to married friends, but I’m not married and I enjoyed it. So don’t let me put you in a corner.

graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore — Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

I think I first read this book in high school and it’s one of the reasons that the YA fantasy genre is my go-to genre. Graceling is about a world where some people are born with abilities, known as Graces. In this story, we follow Katsa, who has a Grace that makes her a gifted killer, and the secrets she uncovers as her king/uncle’s thug. Characters abound in this book that’ll make your heart race and make you yell, “YES! You go!” This is a great book for someone who tends to steer clear of fantasy books. The magical elements are easy to understand and the world building happens pretty early on.

anna and the french kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

This book, as well as its two companion novels, was something I read in one sitting. In this book, we follow Anna as she starts at her new school…in Paris, France, the friends she makes, and the boy that catches her attention. It’s important to note that said boy’s name is Etienne, which is pronounced et-ee-IN, and note that the middle “ee” sound has that French swag to it. Google it. Youtube it.This is a book that I typically recommend to friends around my age (mid-twenties) who want something light and fun to read, but not something that’s vapid and pointless.

stardust

Stardust by Neil Gaiman — Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

I love this book and there are different parts of it that pop into my head all the time. Stardust is about Tristan Thorne and the fallen star he finds in order to win the heart of the prettiest girl in town. (Plot twist: the fallen star is a woman!) This story has a faerie realm, amazing character names, and pirates with flying ships. Plus, there’s a movie adaptation, which I actually think is pretty great and I watch it every once in a while. I recommend this book to friends who are looking for something a little different from their usual picks.

salt to the sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys — Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Survival, WWII

Last but not least, we reach the historical fiction genre, which is one that I adore. This book is so beautifully written and I want to buy a thousand copies and send it to random people everywhere. Every word is dripping in emotion and you can almost feel how historically accurate it is, courtesy of Sepetys’s thorough research, which she writes about at the end of the book. This book emotionally wrecked me, then rescued me all in one sitting. So, so beautiful. I recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for a book that forces them to feel something, or who wants to feel like they’ve experienced something real.

What are some books that you always recommend to friends? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn