The Zahir – Paulo Coelho

Coelho’s writings have always had a re-energizing, cleansing, transportational influence on me.  I found a sort of enlightenment upon reading my first book by him, The Alchemist, and again with The Valkyries.   I find many of his writings to have spiritual connotations, which don’t focus on one religion, but a collective spiritual intent, which may explain why his books are some of the most translated throughout the world.

In The Zahir, Coelho seems to loosely base the narrator on himself, even bringing up books he has written in real-life through out the book.  It gave his writing a quality of realism that makes the reader believe more in the mysticism and messages in his writing.  The book began as the narrator gave a brief background of his life and then explained that his wife had disappeared.  Police in Paris questioned him but ruled him out as a suspect.  After a quick assessment, the narrator also believed she could not have been kidnapped, she took her passport.  His wife had left him.  Suspicions directed the husbands thoughts to the young man his wife had brought from Kazakhstan as a translator. Surely this man seduced his wife and they ran away together.

After writing a book about his love for his ex-wife, he felt the creative release would help him through the hard time, he was approached by the young man whom he believed had taken his wife from him, along with a message.  The man, Mikhail, was a sort of mystic, able to receive messages and premonitions in a way.  He was on a mission to spread love through the world.  The narrator realized the man had not taken his wife, and believed Mikhail was the only chance on finding her and rekindling their love.  Many personal struggles followed and the narrator realized he had driven his wife away.  He had gotten caught up in living day-to-day, and didn’t value her as he should have.  He learned to speak of his personal history in a way of releasing his past in order to be born anew.  At times he struggled, but stayed on the path and finally realized his wife leaving was a sign, as a reflection that he has lost himself.  In valuing himself, he opened the opportunity to earn the love of his wife again.

This book had many journeys, many messages, much to do with love and self-worth.  In a way, Coelho writes self-help books, through narration and stories.  He uses many cultural stories, legends and traditions to build the book and messages.  His books prove he is a wise and talented writer.

Rating: **********10/10

Twitter: @blookworm

Die Trying – Lee Child

Have you seen the movie Jack Reacher?  It’s one of my favorites.  Last fall I found an audiobook, Killing Floor, by Lee Child and listened as Reacher mysteriously appeared in a small town and saved the day just as he had in the movie.  This week, I read a new Jack Reacher adventure, and like the other two stories, Reacher mysteriously showed up and walked into a world of trouble.

Jack Reacher is a 37 year-old, former military policeman.  His huge frame stands at 6’5, 220 pounds.  He is not only skillfully trained in hand-to-hand combat, but an expert marksman. He has a sharp brain to solve puzzles, almost reading peoples minds and figuring out what is going to happen before it happens.  This may be the only downfall of the book series.  It’s like Reacher reads what’s going to happen and is always a step ahead.  There are few mistakes, but there are some which keeps the reader in suspense and kept me into it.  The characters were fairly well build and of course he saves the day in the end, as if there were any doubt.

14 months after retiring from his duty in the service, Jack found himself in Chicago.  Right from the start he was picked up in a kidnapping, as an innocent bystander.  The bad guys picked him up with a woman who was working with the FBI.  Reacher had seen she was struggling with a crutch and decided to give her a hand carrying her dry cleaning, and they dug their own grave as they snagged the pair together off the streets of the Windy City.  For two days they were transported in the back of a panel truck until they arrived an a militia compound stuck deep into the mountains of Montana.  The Bureau worked feverishly to track them down and save their agent, while Reacher assessed the situation and went to work from the inside.  There were moles on both sides, along with a dictator who planned on making the militia grounds an independent nation.  Many factors came into play and kept the me turning the pages in suspense, waiting to see how Reacher would save the day.

Rating: ******** 9/10

Twitter: @blookworm

Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs

Well, this was an interesting read.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, just that I heard Burroughs was a funny writer.  I think his writing was good and well thought out.  He had a fun way of telling stories.  This memoir focused on his life from about ages 8-15.  Through his childhood, he struggled a lot with the adults he should have trusted.  His mother had mental illness and what he considered psychotic episodes.  His father left the family and stayed out of communication with the rest of the family.  From a young age, Augusten was enthralled with doctors, acting, and hair.  He had dreams of being a doctor, playing a doctor on a soap opera, or being a hair product tycoon.  As his mother went deeper into psychotic fits, it was arranged for Augusten to move in with her psychiatrist’s family.  The family basically lived as slobs, and other mental patients of the father (Dr. Finch) would move in and out of the home as well.  Augusten missed more and more school and became more of an accepted, slobby member of the Finch family.  Early on, he realized he was gay, and another man staying in the Finch home helped him develop an adult relationship to solidify his homosexual feelings.  As a straight man, it was a little uncomfortable reading graphic details of their relationship, let alone the idea that Augusten was 13 and Neil was 34.  Apart from those details, the book had several short stories of mishaps and adventures Augusten had with the Finch family. For example, the family believed that God used many mediums to communicate, including ‘Bible dips’ and one story even had the family believing that God was talking to the family through Dr. Finch’s feces.  He had his loyal daughter, Hope, scoop them out of the toilet with a spatula and display them on the picnic table in the yard.  Augusten said the Doctor was so proud of this he wrote detailed notes of what they meant along with sketches that were included in the monthly newsletter for his patients!  Gross!

Toward the end of the book Augusten wrote: “I took an inventory of my life: I was seventeen, I had no formal education, no job training, no money, no furniture, no friends. ‘It could be worse,’ I told myself. ‘I could be going to a prom.'”

I found this to be one of the funnier things he wrote, but there were a lot of funny parts in the book that kept me reading.  Ultimately, the book was like a train wreck, it was tough to read a lot of it, but it was hard to put it down.

Rating: ******6/10