Looking for Alaska

Sorry for the delay in posts friends. Let’s just say it has been a crazy couple of weeks for this book addict, and sadly reading has been on the down low. But now it is once again time to resume my “addiction” with a surefire vengeance.

For my first book back on the blog, I decided to read a book from my never ending basket that I was guaranteed to love. Start back on a good page, right?

How did I know that I would love this book, you ask?

Well since I know you’re that damn curious, I will inform you that I have read from this author before, and he is a phenomenal writer, so it was pretty much guaranteed I would love this book too. And shockingly, I did. (That last sentence has a tad bit of sarcasm in it. Just a smidge.)

Thus this week on The Never Ending Book Basket I will be reviewing Looking for Alaska by John Green.

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green (Yes this picture was taken by an A on purpose. You have got to love my thought process and camera taking skills, right?!)

Looking for Alaska has been on my to read list for quite a while now. I was eager to read it since I loved one of his other books The Fault in Our Stars about as a much as I will probably love my first born child. It was that good. I have since personally told at least 27 people to read it, as well as made my mother cry at least 5 times when I was talking about it. Yay me!

I think it took me a total of 5 hours to devour this book from beginning to end, and I was not disappointed one bit by this particular literary journey with Mr. Green.

Looking for Alaska is a book full of searching and finding, seeking and discovering, and of course looking and understanding. The story itself follows Pudge (nickname, of course), as he starts his junior year of high school at Culver Creek Boarding School.

Pudge is going to Culver Creek to find his great perhaps. (I am not explaining that one, so you’ll just have to read to figure out what exactly that means!) On that never ending search he comes across some unforgettable people, including one Alaska Young (real name, of course). Pudge is looking for a plethora of things in this story, but clearly very prominent is his seeking for some morsel of understanding about Alaska, and what is going on in that head of hers.

Alaska is his and many others enigma, and he is instantly enamored by her in more ways than one.

This book follows Pudge and his engaging cast of vibrant classmates, as they work their way through the labyrinth that is life at Culver Creek and everything beyond. Green does an incredible job of weaving a story about young adults, while asking and exploring some pretty tough questions that plague just about any generation you can think of. Looking for Alaska demonstrates beautifully what it means to be someone who is young, looking for answers, and seeking just a little bit of understanding.

The story itself is split into two parts. There is a before, and there is an after. I will not tell you much about what that exactly means for the story, but let’s just say both parts make for a remarkable read.

Per my usual format on here, a list of some of my favorite things in Looking for Alaska:

  • Alaska Young. Alaska is an extraordinary character, and probably one of the most complex characters I have ever had the chance to delve into. (And that’s after I read Gone Girl, with that crazy ass complex main character!) Alaska is like Regina George from Mean Girls in that she is decidedly hard to describe and explain. (That’s about where there similarity stops, but you have to admit clicking on that link and re-watching that clip was fun!) Despite my lack thereof description, Green does a fantastic job of weaving her and her spirit into the story flawlessly. Alaska is a paradox. Everyone is looking for her in some way, and what I found reading was that I was looking for her as well. I was looking for those little jagged pieces of her to put her all together. Was I successful with that? Probably not, but it was sure as hell fun attempting to put her magnificent pieces together.
  • The male perspective. This story is told from Pudge’s point of view. Being a 22 year old female, I was worried that it may be a tad hard to put myself in the shoes of an adolescent boy. (That perspective isn’t somewhere I normally go, clearly.) Surprisingly, putting myself in his shoes was easy as pie. Pudge’s point of view presents a realistic and wholly relatable perspective. Believe me, by the end of this book you will care for Pudge so much you’ll want to reach in and just give him a big old hug, and maybe some nicotine patches.
  • The plethora of pleasurable nicknames with one exception. Some of the just plain awesome nicknames in this book include: Pudge, the Colonel, Weekday Warriors, Bufriedos, and the Eagle. And of course there is Alaska Young which is no nickname, but shines just as much.
  • The laugh out loud moments. This being my second experience with John Green, I was not surprised to find I was laughing out loud frequently with Looking for Alaska. Whether it was from something Pudge or any of his vibrantly hysterical classmates were saying and doing, or from the multitude of pranks pulled in this book, I can honestly say I laughed about every 4 and a half minutes while reading. (That’s an exact measurement in case you’re wondering.)
  • The almighty word. While Looking for Alaska has many great words, Pudge’s talent of knowing the last words of famous people adds the glue to this entire story. These famous last words are dispersed throughout, and add a new dimension and sense of logic to what is being told. They make for some pretty unforgettable moments, and help all those looking for something find that morsel of something in some way, shape, or form.

I could continue this list for pages, but I will stop there because I am sure your eyes are glazing over by now with all this love. Suffice to say I LOVED Looking for Alaska.

Green presents characters that are wholly authentic and relatable, even if you would never think it going into that first page. Looking for Alaska is a story about looking for what is out there in the world and what is inside us, and attempting to find some kind of answer, whatever or wherever that may be.

This book takes on a story and a set of characters that will remain with you, and will remind you of what it truly means to be young and in that age of discovery that we refer to as life.

I encourage you to take this journey with Pudge and his friends as you go looking, because no matter who you are, where you come from, or how old you are, you will find something in this book that will truly speak to you. I promise, and I never go back on my promises.

As I finish off this post, I want to leave you with some last words and the quote that stuck with me the most from reading. I won’t give you a ton of context for it, but just know I think it accurately sums up a pretty important facet from Looking for Alaska as well as for life itself.

“Thomas Edison’s last words were: ‘It’s very beautiful over there.’ I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”

Here’s hoping.

ps. If you would like to learn more about John Green and his self and books you can learn more at the following links. (Click on the links. Do it. I dare you not to love his books.)

http://johngreenbooks.com/ (His website)

https://www.facebook.com/JohnGreenfans (Facebook)

https://twitter.com/realjohngreen (Twitter)

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Fireworks Over Toccoa

Welcome back fellow book addicts. While we may have made a slight detour on our journey of book addiction with the fun yet very enlightening discussion about the Fifty Shades of Grey cast, the time has come to discuss another book from my Never Ending Book Basket.

Today we travel back down to the south to discuss Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff.

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

I know what you’re thinking: Are all the books on here going to be about the south or take place in the south?

The answer to that question is no, but be forewarned now, I LOVE the south and many of the books set there. I find it very easy to slip myself into a southern state of mind. (It must be the Marylander in me) So it is very likely that a good number of the books discussed on here will take place in the south, but I promise you that each book will have you wishing you lived there, breathed there, and simply felt there.

Now for Fireworks Over Toccoa.

This sweet and charming book is set in the small town of Toccoa, Georgia in a time long ago right after the second World War. The story centers around Lily Davis Woodward and Jake Russo as happenstance brings them together despite their past and present lives. Lily is currently married to a man she hasn’t seen in over three years because of the war. Jake is an Italian American war veteran coming to town with a troubled but endearing past, and brings with him the gift of fireworks for the town of Toccoa.

What ensues when these two meet is a charming story about what happens when you meet someone who you know is going to change your life forever.

What I adored about this book:

  • The setting of the story. You knew this was coming right? The setting is set up well, and it is very easy to picture Toccoa Georgia in 1945. It is written so eloquently, I swear you can even feel the heat on your skin. Toccoa creates a nice backdrop for the story unfolding in the book, and provides the reader with an unforgettable experience. The background and history of Toccoa is also a nice added feature that fits in seamlessly with the characters of the book.
  • The theme of love. I won’t reveal too much of what happens in this story, but it is obvious that this book is about love, which is something near and dear to my heart. The varying levels and displays of love in this book are heartwarming, and makes for a story that will simply make you feel the love. All over.
  • Lily Davis Woodward. I adore a strong female character. (Is that really hard to understand? I am a female, hello?) Lily is a very unique and vibrant character, and is one that does not fit the exact mold of what you think a young woman would be like in post war America. Simply put, Lily defies the mold, but in a way that makes you love her for her vibrancy, tenacity, and desire to simply feel something out of the ordinary.
  • Hello, it’s a love story. What else can I add to that? This is a love story. Plain and simple. Similar to others out there, but Fireworks Over Toccoa is set apart by how the love story is presented and told. Past, present, and future collide here. It also has an air of mystery to it, because while reading there are many ways the story could go. The story simple isn’t told. You feel it. You breathe it. You are immersed in it.

Not to put a rain cloud over all of what I adored, but as always there were a few aspects that left me a wee bit sad:

  • What was left unsaid. I won’t discuss too much about how Lily and Jake’s stories come together, or how they end, but I will say while reading I found myself wanting more for each of the plausible endings that could have happened. This story presents many distinct options for how this book will end, and while I was satisfied with the ending I was left wanting to know more. I know beggars can’t be choosers, and that readers often want more when they come to the end of a book. (Believe me I’ve read a ton of books where that happened) I just felt more information could have been presented about everyone involved in the story, without needing to change the actual plotline.
  • The pace. This is a very fast paced story. I won’t tell you a timeline, but let’s just say it ain’t slow in any way shape or form. I do think the pace was done intentionally this way, and while it keeps you on your toes, I found myself wishing at times things would just slow down. I wanted more time immersed with the characters and the love, and I didn’t feel like I really got that chance.

Fireworks Over Toccoa is a lovely story set in a time that many of us never had the chance to see. It does a nice job of presenting a love story set to an amazing southern backdrop. This story will leave you wanting more for many reasons, but simply put, it is a love story. It is easy to dive into, and immerse yourself in for a short while.

Reading this book is easy as pie, and it will have you waiting for the day that that certain someone will come into your life and change it in ways you never thought possible. And of course, there will be fireworks.

 

If you’d like to learn more about this book the links below will get you to the author’s website and Facebook page. Enjoy.  🙂

http://jeffreystepakoff.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyStepakoff

Sea Change, By Karen White

The time has finally come for the egg to hatch. It is now time for my first book review on The Never Ending Book Basket. If you’re new to the blog, please feel free to peruse the site to learn more about what is going on up in here. (Insert DMX song lyrics here… Now can’t you here that song in your head, or is that just me?)

But without further ado, let the book talking begin.

Sea Change, By Karen White

Sea Change, By Karen White

I will preface this review by saying that this is not the first book that I have read by this author, Karen White. It is actually the fifth. I stumbled across one of her books in a used book store a few years ago, and fell in love with the fantastic characters she created in her book Falling Home.  Since then I have been hooked, and I have slowly been making my way through the many wonderful books she has written. (Let’s just say I am really happy I stumbled across that first book, because she is by far one of my favorite author’s currently, and pretty much has been since I read that first book)

This time I found myself reading her book Sea Change, which was published in 2011. Sea Change follows two interwoven stories set on St. Simons Island in Georgia. The book presents two love stories two hundred years apart: Pamela and Geoffrey in the early 1800s, and Ava and Matthew in the present day. The way that these characters love stories intertwine together is simply breathtaking, and will have you reeling to figure out how everything and everyone fits together.

One of the most notable characters in the book is the setting of the story itself. Karen White does a simply remarkable job of describing the south, and how life works there. As someone who has lived in the grey area between the north and the south, it was easy as taking in a breath to feel as if you were standing there with the characters in the setting that Karen White describes. (Though I will point out Maryland is below the Mason Dixon line, technically making it apart of the south) The setting of the book is a character unto itself, helping set up many of the story lines that occur, as well as just being so thoughtfully described that it is easy to imagine you can taste the salt of the St. Simon’s air on the tip of your tongue.

Sea Change, like many of Karen White’s books is told in multiple perspectives of women who are interconnected throughout the story. Ava, her mother Gloria, and Pamela’s stories are seamlessly created and connected together over the course of the book. Each of their stories presents an intricate puzzle piece that helps make the big picture clearer by the end. One thing I love about the books I have read by Karen White is that she does a glorious job of meshing a little bit of mystery, and a whole lot of love together to make a story that will hook you in until the very last page.

I won’t get too deep into the actual plot line of the story, to find that out you’ll just have to read the book. Now before you get all pissy, didn’t I tell you I wouldn’t be revealing anything on here, but I will be super sweet and give you a smidge of a tease. 🙂

This story follows Ava as she embarks into a new chapter in her life after marrying Matthew after a rather short, but meaningful courtship. She then finds herself living in a new place, surrounded by people who know more about her husband and his past then she does, while she still finds herself looking for something she doesn’t yet know how to describe. Ava is searching for something, has been all her life, and this story captures that journey at its most mysterious peak.

Along with her story, you will get to see inside the head of Gloria, Ava’s mother, and will begin to understand more about Ava’s past, and how present events came about. And if that isn’t enough to get you hooked, the book then presents Pamela’s story, told 200 years prior to present day. Pamela’s story in itself is enough to make you swoon, and will have you desperately trying to connect all the puzzle pieces you will receive while reading this book.

Let’s just say, the finished puzzle is well worth making your mind go into overdrive to connect it all. Once realized, the connections and stories created throughout the book are simply magical, and will probably make you want to call your mother. (You don’t have to do that, but let’s just say you’ll probably want to.)

I must say that when I often describe Karen White’s books to others, I usually say “Her books are what I imagine a Nicholas Sparks book would be like if I ever actually read a Nicholas Sparks book.”(I only say Nicholas Sparks just so that the people who are more familiar with his books, can begin to have a frame of reference for what I am saying)  I have said this quite often as I adore her books, and while I have actually read one Nicholas Sparks book, I’m not sure my descriptor of this author’s books is doing her enough justice. Every single one of Karen White’s books that I have had the joy to read has been simply unforgettable. In each book she presents a dynamic group of characters all linked in some way, while setting her stories in various mesmerizing locations in the south. If you never considered loving the south, be warned, you will LOVE it after reading any one of her books.

Simply put, Karen White’s books are the go to for brilliant stories filled with vibrant characters set in the charming south.

In closing, Sea Change presents a moving story told by a dynamic group of connected women who will go to extraordinary odds for those they love. That is honestly what I took away most from reading this book. Love. This story demonstrates the power within love, and within those who will do anything in their power to show it, create it, find it, and spread it to those who matter most.

If you would like to learn more about Karen White and her books, the link to her website and Facebook page is below. (And I truly recommend any of her books. This was my fifth time reading a book of hers, and I cannot wait to read the rest. Be assured, this will not be the last time one of her magnificent books is on this page.)

http://www.karen-white.com/

https://www.facebook.com/karenwhiteauthor

Until next time fellow book addicts, may your desire to read far outweigh any errant thought that could drive you to stop.