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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

Want to Go Private?

Want to Go Private?
by Sarah Darer Littman

Abby and Luke chat online. They’ve never met. But they are going to. Soon.

Abby is starting high school—it should be exciting, so why doesn’t she care? Everyone tells her to “make an effort,” but why can’t she just be herself? Abby quickly feels like she’s losing a grip on her once-happy life. The only thing she cares about anymore is talking to Luke, a guy she met online, who understands. It feels dangerous and yet good to chat with Luke—he is her secret, and she’s his. Then Luke asks her to meet him, and she does. But Luke isn’t who he says he is. When Abby goes missing, everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don’t, they’ll never see Abby again. (goodreads.com)

WARNING!! If you are as prudish and squirmish about sexual content as I am, please note that this book will make you feel very shaky and disturbed.

I had to put this book down a couple of times before I reached Part II of it because I felt sick. I knew this was going to be a heavy-hitter but I wasn’t expecting quite the explicit storytelling that falls within these pages. Even now, as I write this, my breath is still choppy and my hands are shaking. This book is disturbing in many ways and although I want to shout from the rooftops that it was a great book, it feels wrong to do so.

My first introduction to Sarah Darer Littman’s works was when I read Purge which I picked up in the TAC in May 2010. It took me a long time to read that book because I was thinking it would be too much of an emotional roller coaster for me. I extremely enjoyed Purge and so I was quite interested in reading Want to Go Private  because it was an issue that I don’t think has been tackled before in literature AND because Littman’s writing is so real and true.

I wasn’t expecting to be as shaken as I am now when I started reading it. The chat scenes between Abby and Luke completely creeped me out. It started earlier than it might have for others because I was just WAITING for the creep-factor to kick in because I went in knowing Luck was the predator. (I am no good with anticipation!!) But once the online sexy times started I was freaked out and had to close the book, put it down and walk away. After drinking half a bottle of water in one gulp, I went back to the book, hands starting to shake to read more.

The joke around my family, friends and coworkers is that no one can be as prudish as I am about things. I don’t get most dirty jokes and I blush furiously over any sort of innuendo. I should have thought this book would have been a little much for me, but at the same time my brain was telling me “Go on, read it! I’m sure it’s harmless and just hinted at.”

It is not. Graphic graphicyness galore.

But not for the sake of being graphic. It is just an honest to goodness truthful depiction of what can happen without mincing words. I feel that if you stuck Sarah Darer Littman in the world of Divergent by Veronica Roth, she’d be the poster child for Candor’s faction.

This is a hard hitting, intense journey through the life of an innocent victim of an online predator and although it sort of seems like it happens very fast, I don’t think I could have read much longer.

Parts II and III of the story focus more on the different points of view of Abby’s sister and friends. I really liked this about the book because it softens the creep factor that Part I threw at me and it was a nice touch to get a feel for how others react during the investigation. I was shocked at first by the change in direction as I was certain we’d be following Abby and Luke in the car, but I was so thankful for the sharp exit from the highway of ICK! to the more gentle backstreets of Everyone Else’s Reactions.

Even though I think I will have nightmares tonight and I can’t get some of the scenes from the book out of my head right now, I am very happy that I read this book and I am extremely happy that Sarah Darer Littman wrote it. These things happen in life and how will teens and adults get through traumas without knowing there are people out there who understand. This book might resonate completely with someone out there who needs it. Sort of like myself and books on depression and suicide. I wish I had books like that to read when I was younger. I take solace from them now even though that part of me is long ago. You never truly get over traumas but you can take what you experienced and help make yourself a stronger person. I hope that this book helps someone who needs it and helps them heal.

in which apple schools all other companies in how to administer great customer service

People! As you may or may not recall, last week I hit a table and knocked over a bottle of water which landed on the keyboard of Shawn’s macbook pro rendering it useless. After trying various things at home, Shawn finally made an appointment with the Apple store downtown to have it looked at.

We headed downtown, looked in some bookstores (and I didn’t buy ANYTHING!), ate some lunch and visited the Genius Bar at the Apple store where we explained what happened. We were told a couple of things. First, it could just be the keyboard, top frame that needed to be replaced. That would be about $250. Second, it could be that the mother board is fried and to replace that would be about $500-something. A total estimate in an “everything” scenario was about $817 – way out of our price range. We were also told due to a backlog of repairs we might not hear back from the for 5-7 days. Shawn would get a call letting him know what needed to be repaired and we’d go from there.

We walked out of the store and were pretty happy with the experience. If we just had to shell out $250 for a $2000 computer it wouldn’t be so bad. We crossed our fingers and went to have lunch and look at other bookstores. Our appointment was for 1:00 and we were taken a little early.

Shawn got a call about 7pm last night from Apple saying our repairs had been done. He asked them why they were done because he was only supposed to get a call to let him know what needed to be done. The person on the phone corrected himself and said that’s what he meant and apparently everything needed to be fixed. Shawn said, thanks but no, and he’ll just pick up the machine the next day. I felt horrible that I had killed the stupid machine even though I didn’t do it on purpose. A few minutes later Shawn gets another call saying that there had been a mis-communication after we left and they had done the repairs without telling us. Since they made the mistake they waved the repair fees.

So we just saved $820+ bucks and Shawn went to pick up the mac this morning.

Only as I finish typing this it looks as though Shawn is having trouble with the macbook, it’s freezing and not working properly. Erg. I am guessing there is no warranty on the repairs since our reciept says “repairs declined”. Not sure what the next step is.

However, the POINT I was originally making with this post is that Apple’s customer service is excellent. We were treated with kindness, and with very helpful people and when they made an error we didn’t have to pay for it. I was expecting them to say “Well, we fixed it, regardless and you owe us money.” I mean, when we had to have the CD drive repaired at BestBuy they went and wiped the bloody hard drive!!! Here we had two major things replaced and the hard drive wasn’t wiped.

I wish other companies would learn that keeping the customer happy can be simple if you’re helpful and not arguing every step of the way. I know that Rogers mobile could certainly learn a thing or two from Apple.

Now we just need to figure out why the computer keeps freezing. =/

Divergent

Divergent
by Veronica Roth

Beatrice “Tris” Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth’s dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. (goodreads.com)

If you are like me and have been wary of this debut novel by Veronica Roth because of all the hype and rave reviews – well, wary no more! The rave reviews are actually 100% warranted because this book is fantastic!

I swear I only bought this book because a) it was $10 at the Book Depository (.com) and b) people outside of the circle of book bloggers who always rave about new releases told me it was good. Does it surprise you to know that I hold some people’s opinions higher than others when it comes to books? It shouldn’t because I know you do it too. 😉

The entire dystopian world that Roth creates is fascinating to me. The five factions are so interesting and their reaction to each other intriguing. The fact that you have to abandon your family if you choose a faction other than the one you grew up in seems very harsh to me but it made the book all that much more interesting. How society things you can only think one certain way your entire life is beyond me. People who always tell the truth and tell it like it is (Candor) shouldn’t negate them from wanting to help others or give up their seat on the bus to someone in need (Abnegation). I don’t see how one virtue cancels out the other.

Apparently if you think with the mindset of a combination of these virtues you are Divergent, which is what happens to Tris. Personally, I think that makes you a well-rounded person, but not in this world! (I would suck at being in any of these factions, I guess I’d get stuck in Amity or Abnegation as a final resort.)

Do you know what I thought will reading this book? How awesome it would be to see this story play out on screen. Then I scolded myself because if this gets made into a movie, it won’t be all awesomesauce like Harry Potter was. Oh, no! It will be stripped down of all the parts that make this book excellent and it will be rewriten for an entirely different audience and I will hate every minute of it! So unless the book-to-movie script stayed 100% true to the story, I do not want to see it on the big screen. (Even though I think what’s in the book would look AWESOME in a movie!)

The characters in this story are fantastic. I loved Tris from the start and the individual personalities of pretty much everyone in the Transfer Initiates dorm were wonderful. With the exception of Molly and Drew, who seemed sort of bland, everyone else had a striking personality and their changes and reactions throughout the initiation process were like watching a social psychology experiment and I was riveted.

I could not put this book down yesterday! I was thinking and talking about it even while we walked the dogs (after a long hiatus of walking because of how hot it has been!). If I could have gotten away with walking and reading, I think I might have done just that. I read and read until it was 11pm and I was done! I was daunted by the 482 pages at first because I was worried I wouldn’t like the story. Not so, my fellow readers! There is action! Betrayal! Gross eye knifing! Fighting! Every single page in this novel was full of something interesting and necessary to the plot. Not once did the story drag! Not once did I think “Oh, is this over yet?” in fact I didn’t want the book to end. I was completely immersed in the story and I just couldn’t stop because every page was a new discovery!

The worst part of an excellent book like this is that the wait for the next book is agonizingly long. We just had a May, the next one seems like it’s forever away! I can assure you that I won’t be putting off paying attention to the next book. Oh, no! I will be there the day it comes out (or my pre-order will be, anyhow). This book was so meaty and delicious! Scary and endearing! Exciting! Enrapturing!

In other words – I loved it!

Divergent

  1. Divergent
  2. Insurgent
  3. Allegiant

Misfit

Misfit
by Jon Skovron

Jael has always felt like a freak. She’s never kissed a boy, she never knew her mom, and her dad’s always been superstrict—but that’s probably because her mom was a demon, which makes Jael half demon and most definitely not a normal sophomore girl. On her sixteenth birthday, a mysterious present unlocks her family’s dangerous history and Jael’s untapped potential. What was merely an embarrassing secret before becomes a terrifying reality. Jael must learn to master her demon side in order to take on a vindictive Duke of Hell while also dealing with a twisted priest, best-friend drama, and a spacey blond skater boy who may have hidden depths. (goodreads.com)

I shall start off the post by saying – I probably would have liked the book a lot more if it was not written in 3rd person present tense narration. I HATE books written in present tense. Hate, hate, hate! If fact I think that’s one of the reasons I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series because towards the end the narration switched and it sounded like it was written by a 3rd graded.

That being said, this was a pretty decent book. 😉 I tried very hard to not let my irritation with the tense get in the way of the story. From the first chapter I was ready to put the book down only because the hairs stand up on my body with this present tense thing. Gah. Like nails on a chalkboard. *shudder* But the PLOT was calling to me and so I thought I would give it a chance.

The plot was rather fun. It’s nice to see a book about some other type of paranormal creature than what you normally find out there. Jael is half demon and in Catholic school. I thought this was a pretty cool combination to try and tackle in a book. (I also find it funny that I read two books that dealt with religious whatnots in a row). I liked Jael, I liked Rob, I thought Jael’s friend Britt was sort of flat and just sort of in the book as a plot point (I was right!). Jael’s father was meh as a father but I liked him in the flashbacks – which were written in PAST tense and oh, so much kinder to my eyes and brain. THANK YOU.

Those flash back chapters helped me get through the book easier, however it always extra emphasized the present tense of Jael every time we switched back and I had to take deep breaths again.

My favourite character has to be Dagon, the demon Uncle. His scenes always made me laugh and I found myself wishing more of the characters and dialogue could be more like him.

The story didn’t have any big surprises in it for me. It unravelled as you would expect a paranormal story to go, girl finds out she’s supernatural, has to deal with Big Bads trying to kill her, she’s supposed to save the world from a war, the Chosen One, etc. However because of the humour and interesting characters that sort of unoriginal story arc didn’t bother me as much. If I ignored my allergy to the tense of the narration (heh) I was finding Misfit to be highly entertaining and a great escape for a few hours.

It helps that the pages are all decorated with, um, blood?, I guess. Black and white though, but how eerie would it be if it were red? Ooo, they should do that! Aesthetically the book called out to me and that’s why I picked it up in the first place. I couldn’t recall seeing this book anywhere before. Once I read the summary on the flap of the book I was hooked. Took it home, went to add it to Goodreads only to discover that I had it on my wishlist there already! Obviously I must have seen it on a blog sometime in the past, my guess is from Kristi’s Books to Pine For posts, where I always end up adding things to my wishlist and then forgetting they are there. ha!

It was pretty obvious in the last third of the book that it was being built up for a sequel. That sort of made me sad because although I used to be a huge lover of series, I am sort of missing the excellent stand-alone novel these days. At this point I am not sure if I will pick up the sequel, I am curious enough to see what happens next to Jael but the thought of reading another book set in the present tense makes me cringe! 😉

HONOURARY MENTION: Goes to the font on the cover and of the chapter titles. I loooooove that font and must find out where I can try and procure it for myself. There’s just something about it that sings to me. Now that I am on a new computer, and a Mac to boot, I have to try and pump up my collection of fonts. I had a bunch of free ones downloaded on my pc laptop and two in particular I am going to miss like crazy. Need to find some cool free fonts for my mac… anyone?

Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners
by Melissa Walker

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver’s license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin, Lacey’s junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn’t know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion. (goodreads.com)

I feel like I have been waiting for this book forever. I am not someone who likes contemporary YA novels. I prefer to read stories about paranormal whatnots and serial killers and mental institutions and paranormals… you get the idea. Melissa Walker is probably the only YA author who has consistently made me love normal people stories. Her Violet series captured my attention, why? I don’t know. But I loved and shared my love of that series with the world. I lent the books to coworkers for their daughters, I hand sold the books to people in the YA sections of bookstores. I adored them.

When Melissa published Lovestruck Summer I was nervous. I don’t like romance stories whether they be adult or YA. I didn’t think I would like it at all but I bought it because the one thing that stuck with me from the Violet books was how wonderful the characters were. I was honestly surprised with how much I enjoyed Lovestruck Summer and happy that I took the chance on it despite it not being a genre I would have read otherwise.

Cut to Small Town Sinners – just knowing there was a new Melissa Walker book on the horizon made me giddy, then I read what it was about and knew I was going to want to devour it in one sitting.

That happened today. My order came in from Book Depository and I put aside everything else I was doing, reading, internetting and just sat and read from 11:30 – 1:30. I then opened my laptop back up and sent Melissa an email that started:

FIVE BILLION STARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously! This book is so… thought provoking? Passionate? Raw? Real? Just, brilliant, really.

Books about religion are not my cup of tea unless they are presented in such a way that is not preachy, but thoughtful. I didn’t grow up with such a strict religious background. My family and town were pretty liberal Catholics. Though I was sheltered from a lot, just because it wasn’t happening around us, nothing was ever taboo. (Well, except for, like, killing people and stuff. You know the really bad things.) However growing up in Catholic schools pretty much meant I knew nothing about other religions. Had I known then, as a child and teen, that there were places that put on things like Hell Houses or were that unforgiving about all sorts of acts, I think I would have thought it was all a myth to scare children into behaving. Even now I find it so unbelievable. I have had my own battles with faith and what I believe throughout my life and well, this book is excellent at portraying what people, especially teens, can go through to try and figure out who they are and what they believe.

Melissa Walker writes such fantastic characters that are real and likeable and relatable. She’s sort of the YA Sarah Addison Allen in that way (I always love her characters!) I read her books FOR the characters and this book just happened to have a very interesting subject for a plot and it was riveting.

This is the type of book that makes me want to hold discussions with various people about why and what they believe and if they truly believe in this Hell House creation and why people always seem to think their religion is better than the other when it seems pretty obvious it all stems from the same place. I just don’t get that. But this isn’t about me, it’s about how this book made me think about all of that and want to explore it more and yet… it’s not really about religion at all. It’s about people and growth and friendships and trying to figure out what the right thing to do it. The right answer.

Would be nice if life came with a standard set of answers, wouldn’t it? But it doesn’t, so this coming of age novel is just wonderful in its exploration of that. Family, friends and faith, three things that don’t always work well together and yet Lacey tries her best to weave them all together around her.

I am so very happy I read this novel and I am so very thankful to Melissa for writing it. This is certainly a YA novel that is a must read for all.