Monday, October 27, 2014

BloggerBlackout: Because Stalking is Not Cool.

Image from Bookthingo
Ok, I know that I'm really really late to the bloggerblackout, but in my defence, I just heard about it today from The Passive Voice. And once I heard about it, I knew I had to join.

Wait, what's this bloggerblackout whatchamacallit? 

Recap of the incident (and why I don't believe what Kathleen Hale says). Feel free to skip if you've already read it. 

Simply put, it's a response by bloggers to the atrocious behaviour of Kathleen Hale. Kathleen Hale received a one-star review from a reviewer who initially liked the book, but was then turned off by PTSD jokes and statutory rape that seemed to be condoned (in her piece, Hale says that there is no rape [she fails to specifiy statutory rape]in the book, but it's mentioned in that reviewer's thread several times by more than one person that there is statutory rape. Hale also completely fails to address the PTSD joke, instead going on and on about the rape, so I assume that it's in the book and she doesn't want to admit it). Hale is so upset that she pays for a background check, visits her house and even calls her at her place of work. This is clearly harassment. But according to Hale, she was being catfished by the blogger.

To quote Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

The definition of cat-fishing is (according to dictionary.com) "to deceive, swindle, etc, by assuming a false personality online." (when used as a slang verb). Please take note of the word "swindle". It's most commonly used for cases where the victim was cheated out of money. From what I can find on the net, the blogger simply used a pseudonym, and didn't actually try to get the author to give her money or free books or something like that.

Personally, my suspicions of the piece were first raised by the fact the author used Stop the Goodreads Bullies (STGRB) as source of information. If you didn't know, STGRB is a bully side dedicated to doxxing "bullies". In other words, bloggers who post critical reviews. I guess to them, the function of book bloggers is to love every single book and promote it for free.

And the second thing that convinced me that there were serious holes with the stories were the lack of screenshots. Or even a link to the offending review. Evidence is everything, especially on the internet, where you can capture webpages straightaway.

So what we have is an extremely one-sided piece, with indications that there are serious doubts as to how truthful the author is being. From searching on the net, it seems that there's no evidence to support her case.

So, what's with all the bloggers up in arms? 

This concerns our safety. Of course we're going to be worried. I'm lucky enough that I live far far away from most writers I review (and anyway, I don't really do snark because I'm atrocious at it - and I tend to pick books that I like so....). But other bloggers aren't so lucky.

If you don't believe what I'm saying, take some time to read this blogger's account of how she was hit over the head with a wine bottle by an angry author.

We book bloggers spend our time reading and reviewing books not because we're trying to be rich or famous, but because we love reading. We love reading, and we want to spread the word. We're not in this for the money or fame, and we shouldn't have to be afraid for our safety because we dare to speak our minds about books.

Hence, the #haleNo and #bloggerblackout trends on twitter.

So what's your blogger blackout going to entail? Are you posting non-reviews? Only reviews of authors long gone? 

My blackout will last till Nov 1 and I will not be posting anything new. I know some bloggers are posting non-review posts, and I might do that (if I find something to say), but for now, I want this post to stay at the top of my blog.

So give me something to read when you're gone! 

Gladly. Here are the most useful links:
Brianna from Pages Unbound did a wonderful post discussing "Who has the "Authority" to review books?"
Bibliodaze has two great posts, an Open Letter to Kathleen Hale and more about #HaleNo, blogger blackout and the non-existent war between bloggers and authors.
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books talks about The Choices of Kathleen Hale
Dear Author explains why pseudonyms are used by some bloggers (and why the pseudonym should be respected) in On The Importance of Pseudonymous Activity

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Sorry for skipping a day yesterday. I spend more time than expected doing the paperwork for, and setting up my new phone. 

I heard about this book, not because of reviews from other bloggers, but because of the one star review written by MacKenzie Bezos on Amazon.com. It sparked my interest, because Amazon.com is one of the main ways I buy print books in Japan.

This book basically covers Amazon.com from its inception to around 2012. That means that there's no coverage on the Amazon-Hachette dispute (although it is mentioned three times), which is a pity. And considering the developments made by Amazon in the past two years (in Japan, we got the Kindle! I'm quite curious as to know how that happened), I'm guessing that quite a lot of things have been left out, which makes this book *gasp* dated. But I guess that's what happens when the company you're covering moves so fast.

Since I'm not related to anyone working at Amazon, I have no way of knowing how many errors are in the book. But, the review by Kaphan shows at least one inaccuracy, and the review by MacKenzie shows another one. So I'm guessing a few, but no major errors.

As for author bias, I think it's rather even-handed. While the author does call loyal employees "Jeff Bots" and refer to their oft-repeated words as "Jeffisms", he does praise Amazon.com several times as well. He talks about how Jeff Bezos can be very generous (even though he can be ruthless at times), and gives plenty of examples.

I really like this book. It's easy to read, and it covers Amazon.com's history in quite some detail. I finished this book with a deeper respect for Amazon.com, although I can't tell whether this is a company that I'd like to work for (I get the sense that I won't truly know unless I get the chance to work there). Amazon's story is more than being in the right place in the right time, it's the story of being tenacious, and taking daring risks.

If you've been curious about Amazon.com, and want something more than One Click (click to see my review), then The Everything Store may be what you're looking for. On the whole, it's an even handed and comprehensive look at the history of Amazon.com.

Now, my wishlist for the next Amazon.com book is for someone to look at Amazon's impact on self-publishing, and its impact on other countries, such as Japan and the rest of Asia. I'm curious as to see how Amazon competes with other companies like Rakuten (who released the first eReader, Kobo, in Japan), and the Chinese counterparts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Last year, I finally read and reviewed Gone With The Wind, it's a good book, but definitely pro-slavery. One of the characters, that I didn't mention in my review, was Mammy, a black slave that took care of Scarlett and Ellen, Scarlett's mother. I was so focused on the main characters (Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie and Ashley) that I basically neglected everyone else.

As a belated add on, I should mention that I found Mammy endearing.

In this spin-off, Mammy is given the name Ruth and her backstory is told. From her beginnings with Solange (Ellen's mother and Scarlett's grandmother) to her marriage to Jehu, and how she ended up going to Tara with Ellen, the author has used the small bits of information to re-tell her story.

For the most part, I found the story to be very interesting. However, while I was reading the book, I kept thinking:
Isn't Mammy supposed to be the main character? 
Most of the book isn't told from her perspective and the first section seemed to be about Solange and not Mammy. In fact, if I didn't know that this story was about Mammy, I would have assumed the protagonist was Solange. It's only when Mammy leaves and gets married to Jehu does the book start to focus on her. And only the last section (the last 90ish pages out of 290ish pages on my kindle) is told from her perspective.

And yet, while Mammy is telling the story, the focus is on Ellen and Scarlet. All in all, I had this curious sense that mammy, again, wasn't the central character of the book. She certainly is present throughout the book, but she feels like a supporting character rather than a main character.

Which is a pity because I was very interested in learning more about Mammy. In the original book, she's a loyal slave, and that's about it. While she certainly has more passion and feelings in this book, I think that it wasn't explored to the fullest extent.

In conclusion, this spin-off could have been great. The author has given Mammy a complex back-story, which could have evoked a lot of emotion from me. However, the nagging feeling that Mammy is, yet again, relegated to the sidelines is a major flaw that can't be overlooked.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

For reasons, I've started reading Nutcracker and Mouse King, which most of you will recognise as the famous ballet.

I borrowed this from the NLB eReads program, and I just realised this book contains two versions of the story - the original and the French retelling. I'm looking forward to seeing how different they are!

My teaser:

"Marie supposedly is still queen of a land where you can see sparkling Christmas Forests everywhere as well as translucent Marzipan Castles - in short, the most splendid and most wondrous things, if you only have the right eyes to see them with. 
And that was the tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King." 
What is your Teaser Tuesday?