Archive

Archive for September, 2012

Book Review: Finding Bluefield by Elan Barnehama

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Picture of two women together with a brown border.Summary:
It’s the 1960s, and Barbara thinks she has enough on her hands handling medical residency as a woman.  She doesn’t need the complications of dating women on top of that…or the risk to her profession of rumors that she’s a lesbian.  But when she meets local cook, Nicky, all these cautions go out the window.  Soon they’re a couple, and Nicky is determined to have a baby for them to raise together.

Review:
I read this book because my previous read from this indie publisher (Bold Strokes Books) was such a unique, well-written piece of GLBTQ lit, and I was excited to get more.  Unfortunately, the quality of this book does not come close to that of Lemon Reef.  Admittedly, Lemon Reef is by an entirely different author, but one does expect similar quality levels from the same publisher.  That was, unfortunately, not the case this time.

The plot is moderately common in lesbian fiction.  Girl meets girl. Couple wants a baby. Girl gets pregnant. Can they raise the baby and keep the relationship going.  With the added backdrop of prejudice and changing rights from the 1960s through the 1980s, it had the potential to be more unique and add an interesting twist, particularly since Nicky is supposed to be involved in the Civil Rights movement.  Unfortunately, none of this really pans out.  There are tantalizing teases of something more or something unique such as when Nicky gives a ride to a black man trying to escape from mob “justice” in the small town or when Barbara cheats on Nicky in New York City, but none of these ideas are brought to fruition.  In fact, the whole book feels more like a moderately fleshed-out plot outline for a future book.  Like, here are the key points, and I’ll flesh them out later.  Only this is the finished book.  There will be no more fleshing out of the plot.  It’s frustrating to read because just when you think something is about to happen, the idea gets dropped and you skip ahead a few years.

Similarly, the characters are never fully realized.  They are extremely two-dimensional, even the two main characters.  I actually found myself mixing Barbara and Nicky up repeatedly, which is intensely problematic.  They are two separate people, and their relationship is the focus of the novel, yet even after the entire book they are mostly unclear to me, except that Nicky has green eyes.  They simply don’t feel like real people to the reader at all, which is a problem in general but even more so when the book is trying to both be character-driven and address rights issues.

A book needs at least a compelling plot or engaging characters to be readable and both to be great.  This book has neither.  I can see potential in the plot and sentence structures for good writing, but the author needs to work on both expanding into greater plot detail as well as on improving characterization.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

Buy It

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

September 19, 2012 Leave a comment

In January of this year (2012) the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published what most academic and medical librarians now know of as “the code.”  Within copyright there’s an allowance known as fair use.  Since this is a gray area, the ARL interviewed hundred of librarians and came up with a code of best practices in fair use so that all academic librarians can put up a united front against the publishers who basically way too frequently think that there is no such thing as fair use.  I had the opportunity to attend two of the panels presenting the new code and information on fair use.  One was at MIT and the other was at Northeastern University.  This post will consist of my notes as well as links to the code’s website, guides, and contact info.

What is the Purpose of Copyright?

  • To promote the creation of culture by giving people who create it a perk with limited monopoly and encouraging new makers to use existing culture.  The human process of creating culture is collaborative at its base.

Biggest Balancing Feature:

  • Fair Use–legal, unauthorized use of copyrighted material–under some circumstances

So what is fair use?

  • a space for creativity
    • for lawyers
    • for users
    • for judges
  • created in the 1840s by judges but not in writing til 1976

Four Factors of Fair Use

  1. Reason for the use
  2. Kind of work used
  3. Amount used → is it appropriate?
  4. Effect on the market

The Good News

  • Judges love it and love using the factors
  • Supreme Court: fair use protects free speech
  • Judicial interpretation has shifted greatly since 1990

Things Judges Ask

  • Is your use transformative?
    • Are you adding to the culture
    • Are you an innovator
  • Did you use the amount that is appropriate to satisfy the transformative use

Transform?

  • use of works in scholarly study when they’re not intended for scholarly study
  • PLUS custom and practice of individual creative communities especially when well-documented
    • When judges hear a good story about why what you’re doing as a community is transformative, they want to side with you

Best Practices Codes

  • Communities that use them:
    • documentary filmmakers
    • scholars
    • online video
    • dance productions
  • principles not rules
  • limitations not bans
  • reasoning not rote

Why Fair Use Matters to Librarians

  • Libraries preserve culture. To keep them alive means copying especially digital.
  • Patrons need answers now.
  • Can libraries stay relevant to the future by serving patrons from a distance?
  • Projects/needs that seem important aren’t getting done or are being abandoned because of risk aversion (fear of getting sued).
  • Put legal risks into perspective “mission risk.”

The Code of Best Practices
“Nobody really wants to sue. They just want to scare you.”
“Fair use is like a muscle.”
The more people who expressly go forward with fair use, the more protection we all have.

  1. eReserves
    It is fair to provide access to teaching materials (digitally) for students and professors.

    1. Spontaneity is not the law.  You can reuse course reserves (repeated use).
    2. The 1976 Guidelines are not the law.
    3. If you’re not in the class, you don’t get access. Passwords.
    4. Are you making a good faith effort to limit the use to fair use?
    5. There’s a difference between access and distribution.
  2. Exhibits both physical and virtual
  3. Digitizing to preserve at-risk items, but only when you can’t buy it and it is in a format that is becoming outdated but not yet obsolete.
  4. Digital collections of archives and special collections
  5. Access to research and teaching materials for disabled users.
  6. Institutional repositories, for example dissertations, theses
    Writers of dissertations/theses have a right to deposit their work in the repository without getting copyright rights from those whose work they’ve quoted/cited.  This code aims to help libraries stand by authors and help places like ProQuest understand fair use.
  7. Data-mining/Finding aids.
    1. When you google, you’re not searching the internet.  You’re searching google’s copy of the internet.  This is legal under fair use.
  8. Making topically-based collections of Web-based material.
    1. You’re collecting for a particular reason for a different use than the original creators had.

General Advice

  • Libraries are not liable for bad things that their users do.
  • Get your counsel involved when things aren’t in crisis mode.  It will help them understand you and your needs for potential future crises.
  • Bring the code of best practices to the counsel as a conversation piece.
  • Reliance on code of best practices is good evidence of good faith.
  • Librarians need to own fair use reasoning and get students and professors to do it too.
  • This is a free speech right.  We need to empower patrons and move them to agency.
  • A library can avoid or reduce liabilities by having proactive staff.  Develop fair use practice standards in your community.
  • You can create your own culture that doesn’t view fair use as risky.
  • In the context of fair use, the perfect document with all the answers is unattainable.
  • Key questions to ask:
    • Is it appropriate?
    • Is it reasonable?
    • Are you using it in good faith?
  • It is not the case that by asking for permission you waive your fair use rights.
  • Sometimes asking for permission can even strengthen your fair use claim.
  • Checklists make rote something that is inherently fluid.  Instead you should simply be able to articulate if asked why it is an appropriate use.
  • We should be able to explain fair use to our people in plain language.  No legalese.

The Georgia State Case
Basically, a publisher sued Georgia State for their use of eReserves.  Read up on the case and the ruling here and here.

  • Classroom Guidelines created in the 1970s were intended as a floor but interpreted as a ceiling.  1990s cases against coursepacks found coursepacks aren’t fair use, so now they pay a use fee.  Code of Best Practices is the first to look at it from a library perspective.
  • What happened at GSU?
    What was at issue was not the software (ie Blackboard) but the amount of info on Electronic Reserves.
  • Publisher’s argument:
    * should have sought and paid permission for every item on Electronic Reserves
    * argued fair use checklist is weighted to fair use
    * GSU could have subscribed to annual access
  • Library’s argument:
    *  use of excerpt from books in this setting is fair use
    *  checklist properly used
    *  If GSU had an annual license from CCC, Cambridge University Press is not part of it anyway.
  • So how much is fair use?
  • CCC is contractually obligated to let publishers know if they think an infringement is going on.
  • If you’re arguing market impact, you have to show it.
  • 75 cases were submitted, of those only 5 instances of infringement found.
  • Court declined to issue injunction and ordered plaintiff to pay defendent’s legal fees.
  • Is the use transformative?
    *  using it in a new way
    *  the obvious exception is straight reproduction for classroom use
    *  the things that teachers use to teach are not usually created with the intention to use to teach, so this use is innately transformative.
    *  non-transformative use is 10 to 20%
    *  transformative use can be the whole thing.
    *  Textbooks are not transformative (made for teaching) so less fair use leeway.
  • The actual damages to the publisher was $750
  • Licenses “must be easily accessible, reasonably priced, and that they offer excerpts in a reasonable format.”
  • “We’re creating a situation where fair use will disappear if we don’t use it.”
  • The lawsuit is really just about scholarly nonfiction books.
  • This case isn’t precedent for anyone but GSU.

You can find much more information, including contact info for the panelists, on the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use website.

 

Publication Announcement: Short Story in Crack the Spine Literary Magazine

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Hello my lovely readers!

Just a quick post to let you all know that my literary short story “Closest Thing to Heaven” published today in issue 40 of Crack the Spine literary magazine.

Here’s the blurb:

Mama’s sleeping, and it’s super-hot out, so Brother says he’ll take me to the swimmin holler.

I do hope you all will check it out!

Book Review: The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Image of African man standing near a chicken.Summary:
Alois used to work for the Ministry, but he felt stifled and quit. Now he steals chickens.  One night the white owner of one of the large, walled-in houses he steals from stops him. He wants him to get a letter for him. A letter from Gabriel, a revolutionary leader who has been long-thought to be dead.  Alois accepts for the money, but soon finds his whole world changing around him.

Review:
This book was a gift from a one-time friend who also enjoys African lit.  She enjoyed it and thought I would, but remember that problem I mentioned in my last review where I don’t seem to like books other people recommend to me?  Yeah. Still a problem.  I do enjoy African lit, and I thought when I saw the cover and heard the title that this book would be more of a social justicey kind of plot.  But it’s actually quite a bit of a political thriller, and I personally don’t like those.  Putting that element aside, though, I am still able to review the quality of the book.

The plot takes the less common method of looking at political upheavals and developments through the eyes of an average person dragged into the situation.  There are a few chapters that show us the president’s perspective, but primarily things are seen through Alois’s eyes.  I think this is what made it readable to me, because honestly who cares about politicians?  It’s the everyman that is interesting.  The plot is also interesting in that it looks at both a past revolution and a present-day coup.  That makes it more unique in the world of political thrillers.

The writing can only be described as flowery.  For example:

In truth he saw her everywhere, but you couldn’t say to a woman, not one who was meant to be just your friend, “Here, I have brought you this tree because its branches moved as you do” or “see here this bucket, when the water falls from it I hear your voice. (page 104)

Pretty much the entire book has that kind of meandering, highly descriptive cadence.  I know that works for lots of readers.  It’s just not personally something I enjoy, and I did find it odd in a political thriller.

One thing that bothered me is that it’s never entirely clear what country in Africa this is.  I think it might be a fictional country in the southern region of Africa.  The author herself lived in Ghana for a time so perhaps the idea was inspired by Ghanaian culture, but not based on anything factual in Ghana.  In a book like this, a political thriller, I prefer real countries. Or at least a clearly defined country.  That might bother other readers less though.

Overall then, there are some aspects of this political thriller that make it unique in the genre.  It examines both a past revolution and a current coup through the eyes of a non-political youth who was not alive for the previous revolution.  The writing is surprisingly flowery for the genre, so fans should be aware of that difference going in.  Recommended to fans of political thrillers looking for something different.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

Buy It

Counts For:
Specific country? Uncertain. Southern region of Africa. Australian author who has lived in Ghana.

Friday Fun! (Camping and Where I Have Been!)

September 15, 2012 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

Yes, I realize it’s technically Saturday, but things have been rather quiet around here the last couple of weeks, and I didn’t want to leave you hanging any longer!  So why have things been so quiet?

Well, first, it was Labor Day weekend here in the States, and I actually for once went on vacation for it. Shocking, I know.  I went camping in the Green Mountains.  This was the view from my tent:

Gorgeous, eh?  And it was such a great break!  Zero technology. My cell phone didn’t even have reception.  I got disgustingly filthy, and I loved it.  I went for a swim in the pond and for a hike and cooked over a campfire.

Oh, yes, and the boy I’ve been dating asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes. :-D He’s an awesome boyfriend, and I love him.

Beyond the vacation and personal development, it’s the start of the semester at work, so I’ve been incredibly busy with beginning of the semester library classes, orientations, and just general helping out the new students.  Also, the audiobook I’m currently reading while completely *awesome* (Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi), is also super-long.  The other book I was reading on my kindle that will be reviewed next week was kind of dullsville, so had trouble holding my interest.  All of these things came together to make for a bit of silence, BUT!  Never fear. I will always return! With bells on. :-D

Happy weekends all!

 

Book Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Series, #1) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

September 5, 2012 8 comments

Girl standing in front of a table wearing a red shirt.Summary:
Yelena is on death row for killing a man in the military state of Ixia but on the day of her execution she faces a choice. Become the Commander’s food taster and face possible death by poison every day or be hanged as planned.  Being a smart person, Yelena chooses the former.  Now that she has admittance to the inner circle of the military state, she quickly comes to see that not everything is quite as it seems….not even her own personal history or her heart.

Review:
*sighs* You guys. I have got to stop letting people convince me to pick up books using the phrase, “I know you don’t like [blank] but!”  That is how this book wound up on my tbr pile.  “I know you don’t like fantasy, but!” and also “I know you don’t like YA, but!” oh and “I know you don’t like romance in YA, but!” A reader knows her own taste. And I don’t like any of those. I still came at it with hope, though, since I did like one fantasy book I read this year (Acacia).  There’s a big difference in how they wound up on my pile though.  I chose Acacia myself because its reviews intrigued me. Poison Study was foisted upon me by well-meaning friends.  So, don’t get my review wrong. This book isn’t bad. It’s just what I would call average YA fantasy. Nothing made it stand-out to me, and it felt very predictable.

The world of Ixia felt similar to basically every other fantasy world I’ve seen drawn out, including ones friends and I wrote up in highschool.  Everyone has to wear a color-coded uniform that makes them easily identifiable. There are vague similarities to the middle ages (like Rennaisance-style fairs).  There are people in absolute control. There is magic and magicians who are either revered or loathed.  There are all the things that are moderately similar to our world but are called something slightly different like how fall is “the cooling season.”  Some readers really like this stuff. I just never have.  I need something really unique in the fantasy world to grab me, like how in the Fairies of Dreamdark series the characters are tinkerbell-sized sprites in the woods who ride crows. That is fun and unique. This is just….average.

Yelena’s history, I’m sorry, is totally predictable.  I knew why she had killed Reyad long before we ever find out. I suspected early on how she truly came to be at General Brazell’s castle.  I didn’t know the exact reason he had for collecting these people, but I got the gist.

And now I’m going to say something that I think might piss some readers off, but it’s just true. What the hell is it with YA romance and exploitative, abusive douchebags? This may be a bit of a spoiler, but I think any astute reader can predict it from the first chapter who the love interest is, but consider yourself warned that it’s about to be discussed. Yelena’s love interest is Valek, the dude who is the Commander’s right-hand man and also who offers her the poison taster position and trains her for it.  He manipulates her throughout the book, something that Yelena herself is completely aware of.  There are three things that he does that are just flat-out abusive.  First, he tricks her into thinking that she must come to see him every two days for an antidote or die a horrible death of poisoning. (Controlling much?) Second, he sets her up in a false situation that she thinks is entirely real to test her loyalty to him. (Manipulative and obsessive much?)  Finally, and this is a bit of a spoiler, even after professing his love for her, he asserts that he would kill her if the Commander verbally ordered it because his first loyalty is to him. What the WHAT?!  Even the scene wherein he professes his love for Yelena he does it in such a way that even she states that he makes her sound like a poison.  There’s a healthy start to a relationship. *eye-roll*  All of this would be ok if Yelena ultimately rejects him, asserting she deserves better. But she doesn’t. No. She instead has happy fun sex times with him in the woods when she’s in the midst of having to run away because Valek’s Commander has an order out to kill her. This is not the right message to be sending YA readers, and yet it’s the message YA authors persist in writing. I could go into a whole diatribe on the ethics of positively depicting abusive relationships in literature, especially in YA literature, but that should be its own post. Suffice to say, whereas the rest of the book just felt average to me, the romance soured the whole book.  It is disappointing.

Ultimately then, the book is an average piece of YA fantasy that I am sure will appeal to fantasy fans.  I would recommend it to them, but I feel that I cannot given the positively depicted unhealthy romantic relationship the main character engages in.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

Buy It

Waiting For Daybreak Blog Tour: Author’s Wrap-up!

September 1, 2012 3 comments

Wow. It’s hard to believe my first book release blog tour is over.  Overall, this was a very wonderful experience, and I learned a lot about running a tour, which I will share with other indie authors in future posts.  This post though is about Waiting For Daybreak, my future writing, and the wonderful participating bloggers.

I of course was pleased (and relieved) to see that bloggers mostly enjoyed my first novel.  Getting so much feedback and opinions let me see what quips and qualms were personal and what were things to bare in mind for my future books.

So what things did people disagree on?  The ending was mostly loved, although a few people thought it was a bit abrupt.  The length was deemed just right by some and too short by others.  Some people found the level of information about the zombies and amount of horror content just right. Others wanted more.  These are all choices that are ultimately up to the author, and I’m still pleased with the choices I made (or rather with the direction Frieda dictated the story to go).

The one universal quip, and which I admit I have always known is a fault of mine, was a desire for stronger setting/world building.  Although the world is always 100% clear in my mind, I can sometimes struggle to be sure that it is coming through on the page.  I have come up with a few strategies to improve this in future books and appreciate the honest feedback from all the bloggers.

The fact that everyone was so honest means I can trust that the one thing that everyone loved is truly good.  That is character building.  People loved Frieda, and they loved Snuggles.  They found her three-dimensional and well-rounded.  Flawed, aggravating sometimes even, but ultimately understandable.  A few people even mentioned that they came away with more empathy for people with a mental illness.  You guys, this feedback blew me away.  My whole concept and point was to create a main character in a genre book with a mental illness as a way to fight stigma and ableism.  The fact that this worked on any level at all…. Well. It rocked my world.  I hope seeing people talk about relating to Frieda and feeling for her will be an encouragement to people dealing with mental illnesses.  Plus, on a writer’s level, it’s just good to know that I can create deeply flawed characters who are still someone readers can root for.

I couldn’t’ve asked for much more from a blog tour for a debut book.  It’s strong, solid feedback for a first novel.  I know more clearly what I do well and what to keep a closer eye on in my editing process.

In addition to the feedback, I got to get to know a bunch of book bloggers.  I’ve never interviewed an author on my own blog before, and participating in interviews made me see how much fun they can be!  They gave me the chance to explain where my idea came from, clarify some aspects of who I am and how I write, and just connect on a more personal level with my readers.  It was so much fun!  Also having the blogs host giveaways of my book brought it to a broader audience.  It was so nice for me to see who chose to enter the giveaways and why.  I also greatly appreciated the space for guest posts to talk more about my own perspective of my book.  It was all-in-all a very positive experience for me.

One thing that came up repeatedly during the tour was people wondering precisely what mental illness Frieda has.  I honestly didn’t realize people would be so curious about this!  I’ve added an author’s note explaining her mental illness to the ebook versions (although I couldn’t add a note on to the print version).  I will reproduce it here now so those with review copies, giveaway copies, or the print book can satisfy their curiosity. :-)

Frieda has Borderline Personality Disorder, commonly known as BPD.  The Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV-TR, which psychiatrists use in diagnosing mental illnesses, requires that a person exhibit at least five of the nine symptoms associated with BPD.  Frieda has all except for number one.

The diagnostic criteria are:

“(1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.

(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

(3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self

(4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.

(5) recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior

(6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

(7) chronic feelings of emptiness

(8) inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)

(9) transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms”

MICHAEL B. FIRST, M.D., ed. 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 4th Ed. (DSM-IV-TR™, 2000). Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Association. ISBN 0-89042-024-6, ISBN 0-89042-025-4. STAT!Ref Online Electronic Medical Library. http://online.statref.com/document.aspx?fxid=37&docid=314. 8/30/2012 12:18:14 PM CDT (UTC -05:00).

For more information on BPD, please see the DSM-IV-TR cited above.

There were two other things everyone wanted to know.  1) will there be a sequel? and 2) what am I currently working on?

I didn’t write Waiting For Daybreak with the intention of it being the start of a series.  But. A few weeks after finishing it, the germ of an idea jumped into my head.  I believe that Frieda’s story is not complete.  There are still many questions, primarily about her family, but also about what she will do with winter coming on.  I do intend to write a sequel addressing these questions.  However, it will require a bit of a road trip or two for research, so it won’t be coming out for at least two years.  It also has to wait for me to finish my current work in progress.

My current work in progress is a dark fantasy.  It is set in the Lovecraft universe and follows four siblings fifteen years after the Dark Ones have taken over Boston.  It will examine many themes, but the primary ones will be sibling relationships and what makes family family.  Each of the siblings will take turns expressing themselves, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to get into four very different minds.  I’ve had a love for Cthulhu for a long time, so I am truly enjoying getting to bury myself in this world.

I think that’s about it for my wrap-up, except for the all-important huge THANK YOU to every single participating blogger!!! Thank you for being willing to accept indie books in general and mine in particular.  Thank you for your honesty in reviewing and positivity in hosting guest posts, interviews, and giveaways.  Thank you for helping my writing to reach a broader audience.  Thank you for everything you did to help make my first blog tour and novel release a success!  There wouldn’t even have been a blog tour without you all, and I look forward to hopefully working with you all again in the future.

Note: If you would like to see the reviews, interviews, and guest posts, please check out the blog tour and reviews page.  It will remain up and be updated with new reviews as they show up, even though the tour is now over.  If you are interested in more of my writing, please check out my publications page.  Thanks!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 923 other followers