August Roundup & 1K Giveaway Winners

A few things I learned this last month, reviews of the books I read & of course the GIVEAWAY winners!!

Hey everyone,

I hope you are all going great and are looking forward to starting school or university soon! I am checking in with you guys to basically just update you on my summer and what I have been up to.

This will be very off-beat compared to what I'll be sending once dental school kicks off again in the next few weeks, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

So firstly, over the last month, I've spent my holiday at home, not traveling, unfortunately, but it's been a really chilled time for me regardless. I did my fair share of Netflix binging (I watched the whole of the Office and it was amazing!!) but also spent some time working too, and I'll tell you all about that now. During August, I was running a 5-week UCAT course with the company I Want To Be A Dentist, which you may have heard of, especially if you follow my Instagram. This is a company that I have been a part of for around 6 months now, and this month, I really put myself out there in terms of teaching for them, as I also did private UCAT tuition with 2 other students as well.

With all this teaching experience, I realised a few things about how I teach that I potentially need to work on: first of all, I speak way too fast. The reason I know this is because as part of this UCAT course I teach, I record the Zoom meeting and send it to the students so they can look over it if they need to. Hopefully, when I watch some of the recordings of the last lesson, this will have improved.

Other than teaching, I've decided to get into reading, which is one of those things that I've always wanted to do more of like it is for a lot of people. I've set quite a difficult target of books to get through; I've managed to actually achieve it this month, mostly because I didn't have uni, and I'm curious to see if I'll be able to get through the books I want to next month. My target is to read 3 books a month: 2 fiction and 1 non-fiction. But for now, here are the books I've read this month:

The Institute - by Stephen King - 7/10

⛰ What It's About

This story is about a world just like ours, but one where people can have slight telepathic or telekinetic abilities. However, these people are abducted when they are kids and taken to a facility known as the Institute, which is top secret. They're kept there are prisoners with other children with the same abilities, and the staff there carry out experiments on them to test the limits of their power.

One of these children, the protagonist, called Luke Ellis, is abducted and taken to this Institute. Unlike the other kids, he is a child prodigy, a boy with genius IQ, who had taken his SAT exams at the age of 12 and was going to start attending 2 universities simultaneously, one of which was MIT! There, he gets to know the other kids and learn more about these powers he has, where he will sometimes accidentally move a pan or something with his mind if he's angry.

After seeing the terrors in this Institute, Luke is determined to escape, but how will his genius IQ stack up against these darker powers who've captured him and so many other children before him?

🔍 How I Discovered It

I literally just saw this on a shelf at Tesco's and thought it was interesting after reading the blurb. It gave me X-Men vibes so I thought why not! Also, I recognised the name Stephen King and knew he was a very popular author, so I thought this may be a great book to read.

🧠 Thoughts

I gave this book a 7/10 rating. The introduction of the book was strange in my opinion, as we don't even see Luke until about 50 pages in, and are introduced to another character, Tim, a disgraced policeman. He then disappears and only returns in the third act, where he has a crucial role in the story. Although it was nice seeing him there, I didn't connect with him as I hadn't gotten to know him the same way I did with Luke.

I also found the second act of the book much more engaging than the third act, although there are some fantastic action scenes in both. The middle of the book was much more of a page-turner though, which is why I enjoyed it more. The ending was somewhat underwhelming in my opinion, which is why I have it a 7 and nothing higher.

If any of you have seen the show Prison Break, then much of the story reminded me of that.

One quote in the book I really liked was "Even great things turn on small hinges," which really resonated with me.

I really enjoyed the interactions between the kids when they were actually in The Institute, characters like Avery and Kalisha were fantastic, and I honestly wish there was more about their lives together in the Institute, since I loved their character dynamics so much, especially the relationship that Avery had with Luke.

King also took the time to write about the emotional and mental impact on these children, being torn from their normal lives to go and be experimented on. PTSD was written well I feel, and even though there were some supernatural elements to it all, with their powers being linked with their minds, I was able to empathise with the characters.

With King being known for his horror writing, there wasn't much of that in this book, except for maybe a couple of instances in the second half of the book. I usually don't care for horror, but it was executed well here I felt; I was definitely gripped, and then shocked suddenly.

This may not be my best review in terms of addressing horror, since I've never really read other horror books, apart from Jekyll & Hyde perhaps (I don't know if that counts). If I read more Stephen King in the future I may look back on this book from a different lens so that would be interesting.

If you've read a different Stephen King book you really enjoyed, let me know what it is and I'll add it to my Reading List!

The Alchemist - by Paulo Coelho - 9/10

⛰ What It's About

This book is about a shepherd named Santiago, who is very experienced at what he does and loves being a shepherd because he liked to travel, which is what shepherds do in Spain in this time period that he's in. After having recurring dreams about a treasure and encountering a King, he realises he must no longer be a shepherd and instead search for this treasure, however far away it may be. On his journey he learns a lot about who he really is and what he is capable of, meets some interesting people like a shopkeeper, an Englishman, and most importantly, an alchemist. He learns the true value of following his passion.

I don't want to go into too much detail because this is quite a short story and I feel like it's best enjoyed without knowing too much.

🔍 How I Discovered It

A family friend actually gifted this book to my brother some time ago, but he had never read it. I came across it somewhere on Instagram as being a great book with some valuable life lessons, and with it being a short book, I decided to read it. It only took me 2 days to read so I do recommend you read this one if you can get your hands on it!

🧠 Thoughts

I gave this book a 9/10 rating. This is for two main reasons, the first of which is that this book sets an amazing example of what a (short) story should be; there isn't much character development at all outside of the protagonist, Santiago, which is fine because the plot and the adventure is the main focus here. This does make sense seeing as this is really a fable rather than a big novel.

On the note of this book being a fable, this book was absolutely packed with life lessons. I felt as though every page had some inspirational quote. This was really the second reason for rating this book so highly; because the inherent value of this book is worth so much considering how short it is AND considering it's a fiction book! I'll link my favourite quotes at the end of this review.

A constant reference in this book was that of omens, little signs in our lives that are meant to point us in a certain direction in life. I quite liked this idea, where something like beginner's luck is just an omen that you should do that thing.

My favourite characters in this book were actually The Crystal Shopkeeper that Santiago meets, and of course Santiago. I really enjoyed their relationship and honestly would have liked to see more of it during the story, but again, since this book was so plot-driven, that wasn't really possible.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • If you start out by promising what you don't have yet, you'll lose your desire towards getting it.

  • Beginner's luck; A force that wants you to realise your destiny; it whets your appetite with a taste of success.

  • Your eyes show the strength of your soul

  • The darkest hour of the night is just before the dawn (probably my favourite one)

Surrounded By Idiots - by Thomas Erikson - 6/10

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. People's characteristics can be divided into 4 parts, and everyone's personality consists of up to 3 of these parts: Red tends to be more dominant and decision-makers, blues are slower and analytical. yellows are the bubbly, social people, and greens are the calm, compassionate people.

  2. With these 4 types: red, green, yellow, and blue, people of the same colour get along the best.

  3. In a group setting, having all the colours present, ideally with an equal number of each, will make for the best possible group dynamic.

🎨 Impressions

I instantly took a liking to this book, just because it seemed like the value inside would be extremely practical, especially for me as a dental student and entrepreneur. While discussing the different personality types, the book often gave two kinds of examples to illustrate what the author was trying to say, and these were in the context of a business/company, or in the context of a social gathering like a party. I initially really liked this because it really did help to understand how these different types of people would act in different situations.

This book talked in great detail about the character types I just mentioned, and gave loads of examples about how they would act, their body language, how to deal with each of these character types, and loads more!

An interesting point mentioned at the start of the book is that communication is in the hands of the listener because they can choose to interpret what is being done or said in any way they like. I thought this was quite profound.

However, as valuable as this book is in real life, the writing style was something I wasn't fond of. I know that this is not a fiction book where the prose does matter, but when the book is so heavily filled with examples, the author is essentially telling stories throughout, and they became very boring very quickly in my opinion.

This did come to the point where I would go through a chapter skim reading the examples, and only really focussing on the bold subheadings that told me what a certain personality type did in that situation.

That being said, this is a book I would want to reread, not fully, but mostly these subheadings I was talking about, in order to make notes about all the character types for me to refer back to regularly, as I really do believe that would be vital in improving my working and social relationships.

All of those reasons essentially come together and earn this book a 6/10 rating.

✍️ Applicant Tip of the Week

So with everyone going back to school over the next week or so, one piece of advice I wanna give is to prioritise what is important and what is urgent; you probably will have exams in these first couple of weeks, your personal statements to finish up and get checks, and even UCAT exams to sit if you haven't already! It can seem really overwhelming, and the best way to deal with this in my experience is to just solely focus on the most urgent thing first, and try not to think about that biology test in 2 weeks when you have your UCAT this weekend, for example.

🏆 Personal Statement Review Giveaway Winners!

Finally, as promised, here are the 2 winners of my 1K GIVEAWAY that I announced over on my Instagram last week! Could the winners please contact me ASAP so we can arrange this personal statement review!! Thanks so much to all of you who have entered!!

Just to close off, I know that this email has been quite long and books-focused, but once dental school starts there's going to be a lot more dental content. Regardless, do let me know if you enjoyed the reviews, or what you think of these books if you've read any of them, I'd love to discuss them! If you have any suggestions about more content you wanna see do let me know!

Enjoy the rest of the holidays and the start of the new year!

Until next time,

Omar Tabaqchali :)