Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Year Blogoversary!!!!

Today is the 2 year blogoversary of Actin' Up with Books!! Blogging has brought me great joy and connected me with other book lovers from all over. I'm so happy to be a part of this bookish community.

How it all started: My very first posts were reviews of The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells and Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine. Two reviews in one day. Wow, I was ambitious. I quickly learned that I couldn't keep up with that pace and now I post between 3 to 4 reviews a month (with some months with no reviews at all). For me, book blogging has been more than just reviewing, but sharing books that I love whether that was "spotlighting" them or hosting giveaways. And I love hosting giveaways!

 Connecting with others: Over the past 2 years, I've been to several book launches and signings and had the chance to connect with authors whose books I've loved and meet some awesome bloggers face-to-face. Blogging has allowed me to make some new in-real-life friends like Heather from Buried in Books. We spent a day at her local Barnes and Noble and I just might have convinced her that you are NEVER TOO OLD to spend the afternoon in the Teen Books section. 

I've discovered some new music thanks to Ginger at GReads! and found out that there is more to listened to that Maroon 5. Her love for music and the band SafetySuit is contagious. I went to one of their concerts back in April and I can honestly say that it was one of the best times I ever had at a concert. I had so much fun that I plan to see them again during their upcoming headlining tour. I don't think I would have found out about them if it was for blogging, twitter, and of course, Ginger! 

Blogging accomplishments: I started a feature called Love My Indie where readers, bloggers, and authors share their favorite independent bookstores. When I first started my blog, it was important to me that I help promote independent bookstores. So I put a call out to bloggers with this post, and it took off from there. Love My Indie received more attention than I ever imagined when it was featured on Shelf Awareness. This was HUGE! From hosting bloggers and authors, I discovered some new blogs, new authors, and of course some new bookstores. I even took a road trip with some friends to one of the bookstores, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC. Lauren Oliver was signing there, so that MAY have had something to do with it too.

Blog Posts: 443
Books Read (since blogging): 186
Reviews: 48
Followers: 1503

So now what?! Well, it's time to celebrate!! I'm giveaway $25.00 worth of books to one winner. As always, following is not required. Extra entries can be earned.

Earn extra entries
Read and Comment on a Review (Review List) +2
Read and Comment on a Love My Indie post (LMI list) +2
Follow me on Twitter @ActinUpwb

Open to U.S. and International (wherever Books Depository ships)
Must be at least 16 years old to enter
One winner will be selected using random.org

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 27, 2012

Love My Indie with Lizzy from Cornucopia of Reviews

Love My Indie is a feature where fellow bloggers, readers, and authors tell me about their favorite independent bookstores. I love the feeling I get when I go into an independent bookstore - like it is filled with hidden treasures just waiting for me to find them.

Showing some Indie Love today is:

There is something magical about independent bookstores, and I'm lucky to have one in my area. The Flying Pig Bookstore has been around since I was ten (the age I grabbed my first Harry Potter). I can still remember the first book I bought there, and how I stumbled onto it, even though it was fourteen years ago. In case anyone is wondering, it was Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, and it happened to be on a Lazy Susan by the front door filled with an assortment of fantasy books. I've been to every Harry Potter midnight release, and I even got to work with them for the Deathly Hallows party. This bookstore has been a major part of my life. So it seems right that I show it a little love. After all, if it weren't for this store (and my parents supporting me by driving back and forth to it), I wouldn't have developed the love I have for reading.

What is it that makes this store magical? The people who work there. The owners take their time to get to know all of their customers. They've watched kids grow up, graduate, and come back with children of their own. Earlier this month I wandered in on my day off and spent a half hour with one of the owners, Elizabeth. We had a long conversation about my recent reads, all while she was giving me about a dozen recommendations.

There's another thing that always impresses me about my indie, and that's how full the calendar is. We live in a small state, and authors rarely visit. Still, The Flying Pig is packed with events. I've seen great authors, gotten my favorite childhood book signed, and learned to decorate a cupcake to look like a panda. What could be better than that? 

The Flying Pig Bookstore is located in Shelburne, Vermont. Visit their website at flyingpigbooks.com

I want to thank Lizzy for guest blogging today. It always wonderful to learn about your favorite book stores. Flying Pig Books sounds like the place to go for a grand bookish time. 

I'd love to keep this feature going. If you would like to shine the spotlight on your favorite independent book store, just fill out this form.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

On the Island
by Tracey Garvis-Graves
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Pages: 329
Source: Won from author twitter giveaway

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.

Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

I hadn't planned on reviewing On the Island. I thought that it would be a quick, summer read - another book in my ever growing TBR pile that I would read and then move on from. But after finishing it at 5 a.m. this morning because I just could not put it down (thank goodness I'm on vacation), I can't stop thinking about it. I had a 4 hour car ride today and it occupied my thoughts the entire time. 

T.J. and Anna share their own experiences of living and surviving on the island in alternating chapters. This method of story-telling propelled the story ahead in a way that let me know so much about both characters - their thoughts, fears, desires. At times, the voices of both characters were similar in that there wasn't much that distinguished T.J.'s voice (teen male) from Anna's (31 yr old female). A few times, I would refer to the chapter heading to learn who the speaker was supposed to be. This wasn't a distraction and didn't take away from the story in any way. T.J. did sound a bit older than a 16 or 17 year old, but after learning about his struggle with cancer and some life-altering decisions that he made during that time, it is understandable that he sounded older beyond his years. But there are instances, and many of them that remind, me that he is a teenager full of hormones and angst. He is a character who any reader could easily fall in love with!

Going into the novel, I really didn't question the relationship that was destined to develop between Anna and T.J. I just wanted to know how it was all going to play out so that it didn't feel inappropriate. Let me just say author was very smart about how she developed their relationship. I don't want to give anything away because it is crucial to the story development, but I'll admit that I thought it would've happened sooner than it did and I actually wanted it to happen sooner. There is a lot of genuine love and concern between Anna and T.J. and it is easy to believe that they were brought together by more than mere circumstance.

As much as I loved the characters and their story, I cannot say that the book doesn't have it's flaws. A few times when Anna and T.J. were in need of something for survival and even their existence, they would happen upon them easily. And there is an incident involving a shark that I found to be unrealistic, not impossible, but I wasn't buying it. Still, these minor faults (as I see them) didn't take away the enjoyment I had while reading On the Island.

This story was very satisfying. I loved it. I understand the hype about it and highly recommend it. I would warn readers that they should start it early in the day because if not, they will be reading it in the wee hours of the morning.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author by way of a twitter giveaway. A review was not requested. This review is based on the self-published edition of On the Island. The book has since been published by Penguin. I was not compensated for providing a review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Haven

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:
The Haven
by Carol Lynch Williams
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories.

But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?
(from Goodreads)
Parts of this book sounds a little bit like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro which floored me. So have the other books by Carol Lynch Williams that I've read. I've already read Glimpse and listened to the audiobook of The Chosen One and I just finished Waiting her latest book about a girl who is trying to continue on after the death of her brother. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to find out what other books she's written that I must read and found The Haven. It doesn't come out until April of 2013, but she has many other for me to read until then. I love discovering an author with an extensive backlist so it makes the waiting for their upcoming titles bearable.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols


Such a Rush
by Jennifer Echols
Published by MTV Books
Publication Date July 10, 2012
Pages 320
Source: Southern Book Bloggers ARC tours

A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.

High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.    

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business — until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers — and the consequences could be deadly.
(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

It took me quite a while to get into this story and it almost became a did not finish. How is this even possible? At the 100 page mark, I set the book down. Something about the story seemed a bit disconnected. There was a lot of descriptive information but not enough action or dialogue to keep me interested. BUT how is this even possible?!?!  I love Jennifer’s books - her characters and plots always keep me reading furiously until the last page but it just wasn’t happening this time and couldn’t understand why.

I think that it may have been because, in much of the beginning of the book, there was so much focus on Leah’s impoverished home life. While they may be accurate, a lot of the descriptions used for the trailer park seemed cliche, and they were so repetitive that it was off-putting. Leah’s situation was dire, her mother was selfish and neglectful. I didn’t need to be convinced. I got it. (Maybe this hit a little too close to home for me).

Then there was a turn around, I’m not sure the exact moment but it felt like a Jennifer Echols story that I’ve come to know and love. I could have been when there were more interactions with the characters. The story wasn’t so much about Leah’s thoughts and every day routines.

Leah was a character that I respected, rooted for, and cheered on. She knew that she had to make her own way. She decided the life that she wanted for herself - anything completely different from her mother and did what she could without cheapening herself to make it happen. She was strong and willful. But there were times when I was furious with her decisions - I just wanted to yell, “Leah, I know that you are so much smarter than this!” (thinking that Mark had any good intentions toward her at all).

What I did love about Such a Rush is that it was more than story about romance (which was hot and I appreciated, thank you very much), but it was about ambition and determination and family. These kids flying airplanes were pretty kickass. It was exciting to read and to think about doing such a daring job at a young age when most teenagers would work in restaurants or malls.

Not that it needed to redeem itself at the end, but it was a book that upon finishing, I wanted to open up and experience again. I even considered rereading it before posting this review to see how my thoughts changed because I hate that my initial reaction was that I may not even finish this book. While this isn’t my favorite Echols book (that would be Endless Summer), it is definitely a book I would recommend (and plan to convince my book club to read). This is a book I want to talk about some more. 

Disclaimer: I received the book for review as part of the Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tours. Thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way for providing a review.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway: Celia on the Run by Sarah Mandell

Celia on the Run Blurb

Nick Novaczek is a cautious soul, a 17-year old with a quiet thirst for danger. On the eve of his grandmother’s funeral, danger finds him by the motel swimming pool. Her name is Celia and she’s everything he’s not. This foul-mouthed beauty is hitchhiking across the country to make amends with her estranged father and doesn’t carry an ounce of fear or hesitation in her tattered suitcase. 
Hours after meeting Celia, Nick is hopelessly hooked and “borrows” his parents’ car to join her mission, even though her story is full of holes. It’s the mistake he’s been waiting his whole life to make. After weeks of detours, with hundreds of miles left to go, their wild adventure unravels, but she won’t turn back, no matter how desperate things get. Celia’s got a charming smile to pay her way, a willing accomplice, and an endless supply of lies. Not to mention a gun.

I am pleased to host author Sarah Mandell on my blog today. Her debut novel Celia on the Run sounds exactly like the type of book I would want to read. Since I am unable to offer a review right now, Sarah offered to provide a guest post and giveaway. Please welcome Sarah as she describes writing and recycling her characters and then enter the giveaway below.

Character Recycling

I have two dirty secrets. Sometimes I forget to recycle bottles and cans, and sometimes I recycle characters from past stories I’ve written. There’s no excuse for the bottles and cans, but I believe recycling a character can be a good thing. 

It’s almost like an in-depth character study, a trial run. I’ve created a person, compiled quirks, traits, and preferences, then tried them out in a setting or scenario. I’ve had practice with that particular character and really liked them, but the story was sub par, and I hate to lose a good character just because I couldn’t come through on the manuscript. I’ve written about 10 manuscripts over the last 4 years, most of them unfinished junk, a few keepers, and so far, just one that’s made it through publication (with Untreed Reads), but I feel no shame in sharing with you that Nick Noveczek, the main character from my debut novel, Celia on the Run, was a shy but admirable kid that was originally from a novel I’ve since abandoned, which was called The Trampoline. The original story didn’t quite work, but the character did. 

Armed with a great character, one I knew very very well from writing him all the way through a previous manuscript, I tried him out in a new setting, cast him opposite a wild and reckless beauty named Celia, and put them in a sorta stolen car on their way across the country for completely different reasons. Bingo! Nick was made to hopelessly crush on an ungrateful girl like Celia, he was meant to overcome his fears and jump off a bridge (among other things), and he was ready to come-of-age on the road trip of a lifetime. 

Now that Nick Noveczek is out in the world in my first published novel, that’s it, I would never dream of recycling him. As for the countless other characters in my unfinished / unpublished work, they’re likely to get revamped, re-matched, and probably renamed before I’m done with them! 

Sarah Mandell is a professionally trained artist with a background in interior design. She's also the brains and busy hands behind a thriving indie craft business called Once Again Sam, where she sells handmade leather jewelry and quirky fiber art creations online and in local shops. Even with an ever-expanding collection of creative outlets, she's truly the happiest when she's writing. Her debut novel, Celia on the Run, was published in 2012 by Untreed Reads. For more, please visit www.celiaontherun.com

Untreed Reads has generously offered an e-book for giveaway to one lucky reader. To enter for a chance for your own e-book of Celia on the Run, just fill out the form below. 
Giveaway Rules:
Must be at least 16 yrs or older
Open to US and Int'l
Following is NOT required
To Enter fill out the form below
Contest ends August 2nd 2012 11:59 EST
One Winner will be selected using random.org


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman

Jersey Angel 
by Beth Ann Bauman
Published by Random House Children's Books
Published May 8, 2012
Pages: 208
Source: Random Buzzers Ambuzzadors/Random House

It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.

My Thoughts

When I first heard about Jersey Angel, I desperately wanted to read it. I loved the fun summertime cover and the premise sounded promising. Then the grumblings started and low starred reviews were popping up. I would gloss over the reviews reading a comment here or there, but never a complete review because I didn't want my decision to read Jersey Angel and my opinion of the book to be swayed entirely. But I did decide that it wasn't an immediate "must-read" for me. I could take it or leave it. So when I received the Jersey Angel from Random Buzzers, I had to take a moment and reconsider because there must be something about this book worth talking about if they are putting it in the hands of their Ambuzzadors (ambassadors) to share.

Jersey Angel had me from the get go. Once I picked it up, I just couldn't put it down. And when I did, I couldn't wait to get back to it. Bauman's writing style is quick, descriptive, and immediately pulled me in.

This book is not for everyone. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. But I'm not indifferent to it either. Beth Ann Bauman has written a book that I want to talk about. Her character Angel is unlike many others in many books I've read because she is very sexually active teenager. Sex in young adult books isn't unheard of. Like most readers, I get swept up in the romance of young love and with the anticipation of will they or won't they. And often we want it to happen. I mean, just look at all of the
Twilight readers who stuck through the whole series to see Bella and Edward finally get together. (I am one of them) The difference with Jersey Angel is that, while it isn't graphically described, there is quite a bit of sex throughout the novel. Also, Angel doesn't always make the best choices in who she does have sex with. She does cross the line, in my opinion, and I certainly wouldn't want her to be my best friend. But I am a little forgiving of the characters I read. I wanted to see where her decisions would lead her and what would happen with her friendships.

There is also a level on confusion that Angel experiences as a result of her sexual relationships. She wants to get back with her on-again off-again boyfriend, Joey, but he has other plans. She is just beginning to realize how her actions can affect her future relationships and what people think about her. Bauman only touches the surface of these new feelings Angel is experiencing leaving many situations unsettled. The story ended a little too abruptly for me. I could have imagined a little more resolve than what was given.

Like I said before, this book isn't for everyone. But I do think that readers should forget what they think they know about Jersey girls from watching The Jersey Shore (they really don't compare) and give Jersey Angel a chance.

Other books recommended:
Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky and The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reading copy for review from Random Buzzers/Random House. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ten Year Anniversary: Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison

Ten Year Anniversary

Ten years ago this week, Taken by Storm's scuba-diving hero, Michael, swam out of 
award-winning YA author, Angela Morrison's brain and onto her page. Join the 
anniversary celebration! Win your own copy of the brand new paperback!  Snag 
 Taken by Storm's Kindle ebook for only $ .99Unbroken Connection (Book 2) 
and Cayman Summer (Book 3) are free on Kindle! Hurry. The promotion ends 
Friday, July 20th.

In Taken by Storm, Mormon girl Leesie has life 
figured out until devastated Michael lands in her small 
town high school. He needs her like no one has before. 
A rare journey into a faithful LDS teen’s intimate 

from Taken by Storm . . .

I’m lost to his firm chest,
his slender fingertips, his long wavy hair,
his mouth sucking my bottom lip—
The world spins, the stars shift,
and I can’t see anything except his smoky
gray eyes gazing into mine.
You scare me, whispers
from my mouth across his.
Good, he breathes into me.
I need you to save me.

"[Morrison] handles the topics of religion and premarital sex gracefully without passing judgment. The message has less to do with religion than learning to respect and cherish others while staying true to one’s own beliefs.”  – Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

Brand new paperback and reformatted ebook with fully scalable fonts. Includes 
bonus, never-before-published scene, "Airport Good-bye!"

Angela Morrison is the award-winning YA author of  
Taken by Storm (Books 1-3) and Sing me to Sleep. She
grew up in Eastern Washington on the wheat farm where  
Taken by Storm is set. She's an advanced NAUI, Nitrox
certified scuba diver. The hurricane that kills Michael's
parents was inspired by a real-life diving accident. She
wrote  Cayman Summer, book three of Michael and
Leesie's saga, with fan input, at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cover Reveal: Doomed by Tracy Deebs

I am beyond thrilled to participate in the Cover Reveal for Doomed by Tracy Deebs. Last month I went to an event at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego where Tracy Deebs was appearing. She was there for the release of her latest YA book Tempest Unleashed. There she shared her upcoming book Doomed. The excitement and enthusiasm Tracy had while describing her upcoming book makes me want to read it even more. 

Here it is!!

Beat the Game, Save the World.

One Stuxnet type worm,
One Greek-themed MMO,
One real world scavenger hunt,
Three teenagers on the run
And a ten-day countdown to total nuclear annihilation .
Pandora’s Box isn’t just a myth anymore …

When seventeen-year-old Pandora Walker opens an email attachment, she uploads the most frightening worm ever invented—and in doing so, brings about total technological Armageddon. Everything from the internet to communications to utilities collapses and suddenly Pandora finds herself on the run from Homeland Security, the FBI and every police department in the country, all of whom blame her for the technological wasteland sweeping across the U.S..  With the help of stepbrothers Eli and Theo, her neighbors and the two hottest guys in school-- plus codes encrypted in a world famous MMO--  she sets out on a real life scavenger hunt that only she can solve.  A scavenger hunt that pits her against one of the most brilliant men in the world—the maker of the Pandora worm.  Her father.  Only by unraveling the clues left by him in the MMO, and in real-world places around the U.S., can they hope to beat the clock ticking the days off until the entire planet is Doomed.  

Doesn't that sound intriguing? I'm ready to read it NOW!!

Visit Tracy's blog at http://www.tracy-deebs.blogspot.com to learn more about her books and upcoming contests.

Doomed will be released January 8th, 2013 by Walker Childrens. Until then we have this excerpt to tide us over.

“That’s not the really puzzling part,” Agent Lessing finally continues.  “Especially if you insist on your innocence in this matter, how is it that starting at seven-fifteen this morning, someone from this IP address opened the twelve different sections of code that make up this worm and uploaded them onto the internet, one by one?”
Emily gasps and I want to protest.  I want to tell the FBI agent that she’s crazy.  That I have no idea what she’s talking about.  But the truth of the matter is that suddenly I do.  I know exactly what I was doing at seven-fifteen this morning.
The tentative fairy tale I’ve been building in my head all day—the one I wasn’t even aware of until right now—collapses.  I swear, I feel it shatter and my stomach, though close to empty, chooses that moment to revolt.
I spring up from my chair.
“Hey, you can’t go anywhere.  Sit back down!”  Lessing tells me firmly, reaching into her jacket and pulling out her gun.
I don’t stop; I can’t.  Even so, I barely make it to the trash can in time.  I don’t know how long I sit there, puking my guts up, but by the time I finish, Lessing has put away her gun.  Emily is looking at me in dismay, while Mackaray and Lundstrom—who rushed in at Lessing’s alarmed shout—are wearing identical expressions of smug triumph.  Even Lessing seems satisfied, and I know it’s because I’ve blown it big time.
    It’s pretty hard to protest your innocence when you get so upset by what they’re telling you that you hurl.
I don’t get up right away.  Instead, I stay on the floor, my head resting against the cool wood of a cabinet.  I think about my laptop, stuffed in my backpack, with all the incriminating evidence on it.  I think about what else is in the bag—namely the pictures from my father that I’d shoved in there at the last minute.  All twelve of them.
    I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to figure out why me, and the answer has been there all along.  The psychopath who did this, the one who chose me as this harbinger of destruction, is my father.  
    He did this to me.  Used my curiosity against me—and the world—and turned me into a modern-day Pandora.  Like my namesake before me, I’ve brought a new kind of evil into the world and there’s no going back.  Maybe Emily’s dad and the others can fix it.  Maybe they can’t.  But either way, I have a feeling that deep, dark hole they want to throw me in just got a lot deeper and darker.
    Every writing campaign I’ve ever partaken in for Amnesty International flashes through my head.  Letter after letter about Guantanamo Bay.  Sierra Leon.  Somalia.  Story after story of Americans taken to foreign countries and tortured because they’re suspected of terrorism.  
Even as I tell myself I’m being silly, I hear the president saying the United States doesn’t tolerate terrorists.  That’s what I am, what my father has turned me into with a few strokes of my keyboard, a few picture downloads that I thought were to celebrate my seventeenth birthday.
    A cyber terrorist.
    I reach for the trash can again as dry heaves shake my entire body.  
What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?    What. Am. I. Going. To. Do?
    Behind me, I hear movement and brace myself to be yanked to my feet.  But that doesn’t happen.  Instead, Emily settles on the ground next to me and hands me a bottle of water.  I rinse my mouth out, drink a few sips.  Then she’s hugging me, stroking my hair.  “It’s going to be okay, Pandora,” she whispers to me.  “I promise. It’s going to be okay.”
    I open my mouth, plan on telling them everything and begging for mercy.  Instead, only four words come out.  Four words I never thought I’d say.  “I want a lawyer.”
    “A lawyer?”  Mackaray’s eyes gleam with triumph as he crouches down next to me.  “Pandora, where you’re going, lawyers rank right up there with fairies and unicorns as mythical creatures.”
    “You can’t do that!” Emily protests.  “She didn’t do anything wrong!  My father—“
    “Your father is one of an elite few who could pull off something of this magnitude, Ms. Wood.”  Lundstrom speaks up for the first time in a long while.  “So I suggest you close your mouth unless you want to bring a lot of trouble down on him as well.”
    Emily shuts up then, her eyes wide and frightened as she presses her back against the cabinet, almost like she wants to shrink inside.  The arms wrapped around me start to tremble, but I barely notice since I’m shaking just as hard.
    “She didn’t do anything,” I tell them, wondering if I should just tell them everything?  
If I should send them next door to retrieve my laptop from Eli and Theo and get them involved in this?  
Do I admit that my father is behind this and let them arrest him, lock him up and throw away the key like they’re threatening to do to me?  But if I admit I had an unwitting part in this, are they going to believe me?  The looks on their faces say no, that they’ve already made up their minds about my guilt.  My best bet, then, is to wait for Mr. Wood.  He’s one of the best computer security guys in the country.  He’ll know what to do.
I shut down then, refuse to say anything else.  They keep asking me questions, but I ignore them.  Even when Mackaray grabs onto my arms and lifts me into a standing position, I don’t protest.  I’ll wait for Mr. Wood, I tell myself.  He’ll be able to fix this.
As we wait, the house grows quiet around me.  The front door opens and closes numerous times and I hear the slam of car doors outside.  The rev of engines that mark the end of the search.  Everyone else has done their jobs and now I’m left alone with these three.
Mr. Wood finally arrives, with a police escort.  He’s all outrage and concern as he wraps his arms around us, but it becomes clear very quickly that he won’t be able to help me.  He’s not my parent or guardian and no matter how much he argues with the agents—he knows two of them personally—they aren’t budging.  But at least Emily seems safe, and that’s something.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I say, after Mr. Wood’s been here about an hour.  They’ve told him both he and Emily are free to go, but he hasn’t budged.  I know it’s because he doesn’t want to leave me alone with them.
“Tough,” Lundstrom tells me.  “You’re not going anywhere.”
“Jesus, Mike, she’s just a kid!”  Mr. Wood exclaims.  
“She unleashed cyber Armageddon—computer genius trumps kid every day of the week.”
“Please,” I say.  “I really need to use the restroom.”  Even though I don’t.  I just want a couple of minutes alone to think, a couple of minutes where they aren’t staring at me like a bug under a microscope.
“I’ll take her,” Mackaray finally says, and I almost change my mind.  I don’t want to be alone with him, even for as long as it takes to walk to my bathroom.  But it’s not like I have a choice now, not after I made such a big deal of having to go.
We leave the kitchen together and when I try to head upstairs to my bathroom, he grabs my elbow and directs me to the half-bath down the hall.  The one without any windows.  I shake my head in disbelief.  They already think I’m some kind of genius hacker-- now they think I can mastermind an escape from federal custody as well?  Who the hell do these people think I am?
“Leave the door open,” Mackaray tells me when we get there.
“What?” I stare at him incredulously.
“You heard me.”  The face staring back at me is implacable.
“Where am I going to go?  There’s no other way out of the bathroom!”
“Take it or leave it.”  Something moves in his eyes and I know he’s waiting for me to leave it.  But I won’t give him the satisfaction.
“Does your wife know you get your kicks by listening to teenage girls pee?”
The hand on my elbow gets tighter, his fingers digging into my flesh until I start to see stars.  He pulls me towards him and whispers, “You don’t want to play games with me, little girl.  I win every time.”
I’m straining so hard in the other direction that when he finally lets me go, I stumble, crack my funny bone hard against the door frame.  He laughs, at me and at the helpless tears of pain that spring to my eyes.
I go into the bathroom, leaving the door partially ajar.  I turn on the faucet, splash water on my face, blink back the tears.
“Hurry up!” he says after a minute.  “We don’t have all night.”
Before I can respond, the lights blink once, twice, then go out completely.  My entire house is plunged into an inky blackness.
“What the hell!”  Mackaray says, slamming the bathroom door open all the way.  “Either get it done or not, kid.  You’ve got one minute and then I’m taking you back to the kitchen.”
I barely hear him over the pounding of my own heart and the panic clawing through me, trumping everything else.  Even my fear of going to jail.  I hate the dark, hate it, hate it, hate it.  Ever since I was five and ended up getting trapped in my uncle’s storage shed, under a pile of heavy boxes that fell when I was looking for my Christmas presents.  There’d been no lights, or windows, and I’d laid there in the dark for hours, crying, convinced that no one was ever going to find me.
Curiosity had been my downfall then as well.
“Tom?”  Lessing’s voice drifts through the hall.
“Just checking.  It looks like the whole grid just went down.”
“I can see that.”  Lessing must catch the sarcasm in his voice because she shuts up quickly.
“Pandora—“  In his voice is a warning and I know my time is up.  But he stops abruptly and there’s a muffled thump, followed by a slithering sound that has me imagining a bunch of snakes sliding down my hallway.  I press myself back against the wall and try not to scream.
Something large moves in front of the doorway.  “Pandora?”
“Theo?” I whisper incredulously.
He leans forward, until his face is only centimeters from mine.  “Let’s go.”  His voice is pitched so low that I have to strain to hear it even this close.
“Go where?”
“Out of here.  Come on, we’ve only got a couple of minutes before they come looking for you.”
“Looking for—you want me to break out of federal custody?”
“Would you rather I leave you here?”
“I don’t know.  I—“ My head is spinning.  Of all the ways I envisioned tonight ending, this wasn’t even in the top thousand.  “Where’s Mackaray?”
“I hit him.  He’s out, but I don’t know for how long.  Now are you coming or not?”
Am I?  I look back at the kitchen, where Emily and her father wait with the other agents.  I can’t leave her—
It’s like Theo can read my thoughts, because he says, “Emily will be fine.  She’s not the one in trouble here.”
He’s right; I know he is.  But still.  Can I do this?  Bad enough to be a federal suspect—but to be a fugitive?  How is it even possible?  They’ll find us in minutes.
Except, the electricity just went out.  Communications are gone.  No cameras to catch us running by.  No way to get out word of a widespread manhunt (or in this case womanhunt).  No way for them to track me when they’re basically blind, deaf and dumb. It could work.
But still, do I really want to do this?  Do I really want to go down this road?
Hell, yes, I do.
I slip my hand into Theo’s, not bothering to ask how he knew I was in trouble, and we glide as silently as possible through the hallway into the living room.  He seems to know exactly where he’s going and I wonder how long he’s been here, prowling around the house, without anyone knowing.  
He slides open the glass door that leads to the deck just enough that we can slip out.  As he silently closes the door behind us, I realize this is it.  
I really have reached the point of no return.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Imagination Designs