Explosive Eighteen, If You Were Here: Book Reviews

Monday, March 12, 2012

When I go to my local library, right off the bat I do two things: cruise through the used book store and check out the new releases section. Occasionally I get lucky and a book I've been wanting to read is on the New Releases shelf. I love it when I don't have to put a book on hold and wait for it to be available. Last week fate smiled and I was able to grab two titles on my Want To Read list; Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich and If You Were Here by Jenn Lancaster.

I think I said before I'm worried that the Stephanie Plum series is heading for Jump the Sharkville. The last few books felt as though they had lost their spark. Explosive Eighteen brought the spark back (see how I did that?). The plot wasn't vastly different than any of the previous books, (Stephanie, bad guys, Vinnie, Grandma Mazur and viewings and Ranger vs Morelli) though I liked the little twist in the beginning. I didn't see it coming and when it was explained, it definitely left room for more stuff to happen between the characters.

What won me over was the conversation Stephanie and Lula had about social media. Here's where my husband calls me a dork. Yes, having the characters talk about Facebook and Twitter brought me back to liking the series again. I would love to see Lula's Twitter stream. I'm hoping that the 18th book in the series is the start of a turn around and the books will be good again. It's hard to get that far in a series and not feel really invested. There's a bit of a cliffhanger so there is definitely room for things to get juicy.

If you've read any of Jenn Lancaster's memoirs, you know she's hilarious. I had no idea what If You Were Here was about and I didn't even bother to read to read the jacket. If Lancaster was ready to try fiction, I was ready to read it. It did not disappoint. The book started off well and chapter five pushed me over the edge in love with it. Her characters have my kind of sarcasm and humor and I laughed out loud in a few parts.

I don't want to reveal too much because I want everyone else to have the same combination "Yay!" and swoon moment that I did in the first pages of chapter five. But, the book is essentially about first time homebuyers Mia and Mac and their decision to completely remodel rather then buy a move in ready home. Anyone who has remodeled will sympathize with everything they go through.

I will say one thing: If you are in a book club, If You Were Here would make for a great theme-night book discussion. That's all I can say. I know it's cryptic, you'll just have to trust me.

Both of these books are my typical light, fast reads. If you have read either of these titles, what did you think?

*If someone starts Tweeting as Lula, you heard it here first. Affiliate links used.

Teaching Kids About Digital Footprints | Raising Responsible Digital Citizens

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"A digital footprint is a trail left by an entity's interactions in a digital environment; including their usage of TV, mobile phone, internet and world wide web, mobile web and other devices and sensors. Digital footprints provide data on what an entity has performed in the digital environment; and are valuable in assisting behavioral targeting, personalization, targeted marketing, digital reputation, and other social media or social graphing services."
The definition above is taken from Wikipedia. I read a post this morning by Jennifer at Hip As I Wanna Be about an incident involving her son, text messages and one of her son's female classmates. I won't go into the details here so that I don't misquote or misrepresent; but I will say it's not that bad, it could have been worse and Jennifer and her son are handling it the same way I would with Tyler.

kids responsible digital citizens

Parents: cell phones and iPod Touches are not toys. I know it's hard to convince our kids otherwise because of the crossover. We and our children use them for entertainment, but they need to be treated with a lot more respect than I see them getting. I'm continually confounded by people who hand these devices over to their children with no parental controls in place, no monitoring and without having serious discussions with their kids about that definition above and exactly what it means.

Each one of us has our own digital drawer in the card catalog of the world. Every time we hit send, reply, publish, share, like or any other verb, we add another entry into that card catalog. Remember last December when a student in Vienna requested a copy of his personal data from Facebook? After being on Facebook for only one year, the site had more than 1200 pages of information on him and his network of friends!

Kids are starting to fill their card catalog drawers at an early age, and unfortunately, like in the case of Jennifer's son's classmate, those entries aren't always good. Now, I know times are different. I certainly can't shield Tyler from everything. He has an iPod, he's played Call of Duty at friends' houses. But. 

Before we gave him the iPod I set up every parental control Apple allows, we explained the rules and consequences and we have his iPod in our room. He has to ask for it in order to play with it. He can play online games like World of Warcraft, but he's a low level user and my husband has turned off the chat feature. Tyler knows to come to us if anyone sends him a chat request.

It's my responsibility to make sure my son is not abusing his technology and to teach him to have respect for what it can do. It's my responsibility to talk to him about computer viruses, malware, spywear, and the idea that everything he does online is being filed away somewhere. Sometime in the future, someone is going to open his card catalog. What kind of things will he want that person to see? What kind of impression will he want to make?

Handing children under 14 a digital device and then walking away is irresponsible and can be dangerous. Parents, please talk to your kids about how long things can "live" online. Teach them about cyber bullying, sexting* and how to respond to those types of situations. I think it's awesome that Jennifer and her son have the type of relationship where he felt he could talk to her. I hope that's the type of trust I have with my son.

What are you doing to educate your kids about their digital footprints? Have you already had a bad experience with your kids? How did you handle it?

*When age appropriate, of course

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