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Looking for Alaska by John Green

In this novel Looking for Alaska we get a glimpse of John Green’s life from when he was in high school at Indian Springs School in Birmingham, AL. An incident involving a student similar to what happened in Looking for Alaska actually occurred at Indian Springs School.

I loved this book for several reasons. I grew up in a tiny community around an hour and a half from Birmingham, AL. There are many things that I could relate to in this book. It is true, no matter where you are from, Florida, Texas, the Midwest, etc., nothing… nothing ever prepares you for the heat of Alabama. Not only the heat but the humidity. He was right in saying that when May starts you can look for 6 months of summer. Another I laughed at was the fact he had fried okra and that was his first foray into the beloved fried vegetables. We can fry anything here and make it delicious. I also loved that one of the main characters was from New Hope. I taught an elementary school about 5 miles from New Hope. So that character would have either attended my elementary school or New Hope Elementary. Pretty awesome, huh?

This was a great book. One that shows people coming into their own after, for example, the main character struggles with friendships and learns to make and be accepted by true friends. He is always searching for The Great Perhaps. Isn’t that what we are all searching for? The Great Possibility. As a “grown-up” I am still searching for the same thing. I do not know if that search ever truly ends. I have religion. I am a Christian, and I know my eternity, and I know that ultimate great end. The not “perhaps,” but the great certainty, but I am searching for The Great Possibility while I am living here in my earthly home. Is it mission work? Is it reaching out to my community here in Auburn? Or is it simply raising a family to the best of my abilities? Creating someone else who will go on to figure out their own Great Perhaps.

This book made you think, no matter your age. It all has something that we can relate to individually. Making friends (no matter your age). First real love, or what we imagine as love. Loving and losing. Realizing that while our time here is short, many of us can be forgotten in the end. It is how you live your life that makes you live on forever.

This is not your typical review. I am not telling about the story, the people, or anything entertaining. I am telling you how this book affected me personally. That while I am not the original age demographic, this is a book that can be relatable to anyone no matter what your age. It was a coming-of-age novel for teens, but also for this adult. It made me think, what would be my lasting impact on this earth? In this state? In this town? In my church? In my family?

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Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Oh, goodness. Let me catch my breath since I have been sobbing, and wipe away my tears so I can see. I actually had to give my review the day after reading this book because I was such a mess when I finished it, and it just stayed with me.

Louisa Clark is a 27 year-old woman in London who lost the job she loved working in a little café. She has been to the local Job Center and tried a myriad of jobs which she disliked. Her last resort is being a caregiver to a quadriplegic for six months. Lou goes on the interview, walking past a surely more qualified nurse exiting the grand home of the Traynors on the way in. Lou is a little different. She dresses for herself, her style is quirky and charming. She is talkative, outgoing, and unique. She is hired on the spot despite the fact she has no nursing skills.

Will Traynor was once a powerful man. He had a big-time job in a grand city, loved to do extreme sports and many adventurous activities. He had a beautiful girlfriend, lots of money, and a life that most people could only dream of. Sadly, his life was forever changed in a motorcycle accident where he was not even the one driving. He was for once, the bystander. Now a 35 year-old quadriplegic, his life is going down a path he despises. He no longer feels he is living life, but rather watching it go by. He is bitter, angry, sad, and sarcastic.

Lou, meet Will. Will meet Lou.

Lou is meant to not care for Will in as a nurse, although she does see to a few of his medication needs and some other typical caregiver roles. She is meant for his attitude, mind, and wellbeing. She is meant to make him want to live his life, because at this time… he no longer wants to live it. He stays in his specially designed annex all day and thinks about how he can end it all. Lou is persistent. With her help, she gets him out and about, slowly but surely. Lou is the Traynor’s last hope. Will she be enough to get their son to want to live again? Learn to not just live life, but love experiencing it again in a new way?

This book made me laugh, it made me cry, it made laugh and cry… as a good book should. By the end I was sobbing and could not read through my tears. This was a joy and pleasure to read. I read it slowly, savoring each word, until the last 40%, and then I read all night until I finally finished. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a great look at life, love, joy, sorrow, and learning to spread your wings. Five Shiny Gold Stars.

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A book about books (fiction or nonfiction) ~ The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith ~ #eclecticreader and @bookdout

For my post on A Book about Books (fiction or nonfiction), I am reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. Right now I am only 50% into the book, so I cannot reveal my overall opinion of the novel, but I would like to discuss what I have assessed thus far. In The Silkworm, we see again from the book Cuckoo’s Calling‘s Cormoran Strike, a London based private detective and his secretary Robin Ellacott. The first book in the series was about the possible suicide, or potential murder, of a famous model. We were given a glimpse into the fashion world, and all that it contains. In the second book of the series we learn about all about the publishing industry. A semi well-known author has gone missing after a scandalous novel has been leaked. In it, many individuals in the author’s life are thinly veiled characters. The way the author discusses them, they are represented as vile human beings, or have  details about their personal and private lives revealed. Most everyone involved are upset and getting lawyers involved, while the author claims he will self-publish on the internet if they do not publish the novel outright. There is a problem, however. The author is nowhere to be found. Strike is hired by the author’s wife to locate her missing husband. The fact that he has been missing for several days is not unusual, he will often go off on his own, but this time is different. This time, his wife is concerned. Could there be something to the worry? Could this be more than just a case of missing person?

In The Silkworm, Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) does a wonderful job of spinning a mystery. She is a master of writing, evident with the success of the Harry Potter series. This time the books are geared towards adults, and she does not disappoint. The characters are well developed, the story has great detail, and you care what happens to them. Right now I am 50% in, and while I have one suspect, there has not been too much that would give away who-dun-it. I love the growth of Cormoran, and Robin in particular. It is great to see her with a desire to become more involved in the investigation. Maybe she will go so far as to let Strike know her feelings on the matter. I am loving this book right now, and it is quite an addictive read. The story is interesting, the characters are interesting, and the growing mystery certainly catches your attention. I cannot wait to find out how this one ends!

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Paranormal Romance ~ The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin ~ #eclecticreader and @bookdout

Wow. Have you read the reviews for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin? This book, published in September of 2011, had it all going for it. It has a gorgeous cover, that is one reason I was drawn to the book in the first place. I even classified it under “Covers” on my Goodreads (GR) shelves. I keep that one for those books that are so gorgeous or eye catching, and it just is a fun shelf. It is a paranormal romance with elements that can also be categorized as horror. There are plenty of other shelves this book can be found on… YA lit, chick lit, fantasy, supernatural, mystery, just to name a few. The rating on this novel is high, it has a 4.11 rating on GR with 107,271 ratings as of this date, and a 4.6/5 on Barnes & Noble. As I combed through the reviews on GR, I found two things out pretty quickly. People either really, really loved this book, or they really, really hated it. There was not a lot of gray or in between. As someone who loves a good YA book, chick lit, paranormal romance, etc., I had high hopes to say the least. I was, and was not, disappointed, let me explain.

In The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the novel starts out with a very creepy tone, and promise of exciting things to come. “Mara,” as she goes by with advice from her attorney, is a high school student with what she says is a “body count.” This novel is an explanation of her life from where things start to go wrong and get strange. Mara has a best friend named Rachel, and when a new brother and sister come into town, they insert their lives into Mara and Rachel’s. Claire, the new girl clings to Rachel and becomes very close, while Jude, her brother, begins to date Mara for a couple of months. The first month was great, but during the second month, the “honeymoon” appears to be over.

When Mara wakes up on day in the hospital, she finds that she has no recollection as to how she came to be there. She learns that she was in an accident that killed her friends Rachel, Claire, and Jude, but left her with really no more than a bruise. How this is possible no one knows, except for Mara, though she cannot remember anything about the night that she was spared.

To help Mara cope with her PTSD, and needing a change to help her ease back into the real world, she and her family move from Rhode Island to Miami, FL. Her mother is able to move her counseling practice, and her father is able to pick up a new case right away as a prominent lawyer.  Mara’s two brothers, Daniel (older) and Joseph (younger) accept the change with no problem, and are happy to move to accommodate their sister. They are all enrolled in a local private school.

Mara does not know that she will make a wonderful new friend, and also find love in this new town of hers. If you had asked her if a love connection was possible, she would have never believed you, but an annoyance turns into a friendship of sorts which turns into love. Add to this a huge mystery, a growing number of deaths, and strange hallucinations, and you have a great novel with a lot to live up to.

I  enjoyed this book. I really did. I listened to it on audio, along with reading it on my kindle. The narrator did a wonderful job and I thought she handled the English accent nicely. I thought some of the language was unnecessary, especially the strong language that was used. Not exactly quantity, but if you rated them on the offensive, several Highly Offensive curse words were used. Not that I am a prude by any means, but I just feel that while sometimes a curse word just fits the situation, some of the ones included could have been left out. Be more creative than that. I am all the time.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. Why? Well, I did not really feel invested in the characters or the story. It was good, but it was just something that was nice to listen to at the time. I did not have to think too hard, it was just a pleasure read. I felt by around 30% I knew what was going on, and even my thoughts, while partially on point, were even more creative than the author’s. This book was just okay for me. I have a friend who is reading the second one, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, and she said she likes it even more. She gave the first book 3 out of 5 stars as well. So, I trust her judgment.

I am one of the few people who gave it three stars that I saw. Many people DNF (did not finish), or barely made it through. I enjoyed it enough that I will happily read the next two in the series.

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