Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

January 17

Comments: 2

SOPA & PIPA Will Break the Internet

by Ann-Katrina

I’ve been reading a lot of hullabaloo about a couple things going on in Capital Hill right now and it all seems to center around SOPA and PIPA, Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act respectively.

You may not think this affects you because you’re just a reader or book blogger or whatever (to be honest, I didn’t think it affected me either), but believe it or not, it does.

Stop Internet Censorship

These two bills will basically give the government the right to deny access, for however long they feel like it, to any website it so chooses whenever it so chooses without prior warning or explanation to the website owner. That’s a generalization, but that’s essentially what it boils down to.

So, if you or one of your favourite bloggers were to link out to a website that was hosting something deemed to be pirated, access to the website that did the linking could be blocked. Just for linking to a site that MIGHT have pirated material on it. Heck, the blogger doesn’t even need to be the one to provide the link…it could be a commenter or guest author or a spambot.

Millions of people, especially small businesses, to include small publishing houses, indie authors, and bloggers in general, will be adversely affected by this. They won’t have the resources necessary to fight should their site (and livelihood) get shut down. They can have their payment processors* cut all ties with them. Oh, and they can be sent to prison for up to 5 years. (What due process?)

All over one little link.

Or if that doesn’t get you, how about the larger sites that have become a major part of your internet life? Sites like Google, or YouTube, or even Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Yes, even these sites could be blocked because, guess what?, they allow user submitted content and should one of those users post an unseemly link in the forum or publish a video with a copyrighted song playing in the background, POOF goes the site.

To me, that’s just plain stupid and infuriating. Whoever came up with it (eh hem…RIAA, MPAA, major publishers, television networks, etc., I’m looking at you) needs to yank their heads from their rear ends and wake up. Breaking the internet is not the answer.

In protest, I’ve decided to join the likes of Reddit, Wikipedia, and WordPress and go dark tomorrow from 8AM through 8PM.

I urge other bloggers to join in and help spread the word to kill these two bills where they stand, for should they pass, blogging and socializing on the internet will become a lot less fun and a lot more like an unnerving dystopian novel. (I swear George Orwell must have been psychic.)

*If you sell digital goods, for instance your ebook, directly on your site, yes, this affects you, too.

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January 16

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Recent Arrivals: The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

by Ann-Katrina

Recent Arrivals chronicles the books that have made their way onto the Today, I Read… bookshelf. Here’s the latest arrival: The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

The Alchemy of Forever cover

First paragraph: I feel as though I’ve been waiting for the masquerade ball for my entire life. At fourteen, I am eligible for marriage and finally old enough to attend. The torchlight flickers on the sandstone facade of Lord Suffit’s palace on the Thames, and the roses woven into my hair are heady and sweet. I remember to push my mast up over my face before I walk through the great arched doorway.

Initial thoughts: Let me say up front that I’d not heard word one about this novel. Never read anything by Avery Williams before and, in general, have been out of the loop. But when I checked my mail and saw a package from Simon & Schuster and with tucked inside a book with a very pretty cover, I couldn’t resist checking out the back cover and blurb. (By the way, the picture does not do the actual cover justice.)

My first thought was, Hmm, this reminds me of that episode of The Outer Limits where the cops were chasing those spirit orb glow-y things that kept leaping from body to body. Before you think that’s a bad thing, it’s actually not. The Outer Limits happens to be one of my all time favourite shows. So while the gist of the story sounded quite similar to that episode, it was different enough to grab my attention—different in a way that made me want to read this book—like—yesterday.

As luck would have it, the book doesn’t appear over-long, so it should only take a few hours, however, it’s the beginning of a series, so I’m a little worried that this won’t be a fully contained story. I saw a lot of that going around last year—an almost story with a cliffhanger ending in an attempt to shove you into the next book—but the good news is that I haven’t seen it too much with stuff put out by S&S.

Book description:

Her first love made her immortal…

Her second might get her killed.

After spending six hundred years on Earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world’s riches, but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to take the bodies of other humans by jumping from one vessel to the next, ending the human’s life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she’s done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again.

Then sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body while trying to save her. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she’s inhabiting–and falling for the human boy who lives next door. Buy Cyrus will stop at nothing until she’s his again, and every moment she stays, she’s putting herself and the people she’s grown to care for in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that’s eluded her for centuries: true love?

Book Details: 246 pages; Simon & Schuster; Pub. January 3, 2012

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January 19

Comments: 2

[Ended] $20 Amazon Gift Card for $10

by Ann-Katrina

Today only you can grab a $20 gift card for 50% off the regular price from Living Social.


As you can see from my screen snap that there’s only ~17 hours remaining. I’ve just purchased mine (woohoo!) and will probably use it for more books (big surprise, huh?).

I was referred there by a friend and now I’m referring you. When you make your purchase you’ll also receive a referrer link and if you refer 3 of your friends, you’ll get your deal for free. :)

I should also mention that supplies may be limited. Also, this is open for US residents only. Sorry to my international readers.

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December 29

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Download a Free Copy of Wish by Alexandra Bullen

by Ann-Katrina

Wish cover To commemorate the upcoming release of Wishful Thinking (I’m loving that cover), you can download a free ebook copy of Wish by Alexandra Bullen from now through January 3, 2011.

About the book:

For broken-hearted Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone… until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn’t just look magical; it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back.

With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses-and two more wishes left. But magic can’t solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.

In a breathtaking debut from Alexandra Bullen, WISH asks the question: If you could have anything, what would you wish for?

You can read the book through the widget or download a copy to your Kindle. Also, keep your eyes open for a Wishful Thinking giveaway (which will be open to international readers, yay!).

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December 29

Comments: 6

Amos Lassen Admits Plagiarism, Calls it Paraphrasing

by Ann-Katrina

If you’re new to the Amos Lassen plagiarism scandal, I’d recommend reading Amos Lassen Falls from Grace, then Amos Lassen responds to Plagiarism Allegations, and then come back here. Up to speed? Cool.

I mentioned that I wouldn’t comment on the subject further unless Lassen offered a proper response to the plagiarism allegations and he did. In fact, he published a pseudo-defense on his blog—which ended with this lovely observation: “One man’s paraphrasing is another man’s plagiarism.”—but deleted it within 24 hours. Too bad it wasn’t faster than Google cache.

amos-lassen-responds (Click image for full-sized view.)

And if you’re in the camp who believes I’ve somehow Photoshopped the screen capture, you can see Lassen’s words in all their glory by visiting Paul G. Bens, Jr’s blog where Lassen left this same defense. (I also urge you to read Mr. Bens’ cogent response.)

Basically, in a roundabout way, Lassen admits to plagiarising some of his reviews but says that it’s all right because the original authors didn’t lose income, that he did not plagiarise all of his reviews and that the GLBT/Jewish artistic/literary works needed an advocate at all costs, including integrity.

Now, a few comments:

  • Plagiarism, period, is wrong.
  • Lassen did violate the copyrights of various sources from which he plagiarised, including the other Amazon reviewers*, which is why Amazon nuked all his reviews**.
  • There was a net loss to the author, even if it was merely recognition for his work, but also in tangible goods since Lassen received review copies, at least in part, due to his reviewing history.
  • As Mr. Bens, a GLBT author, pointed out, this has absolutely nothing to do with the GLBT community and has everything to do with Lassen’s plagiary. This could actually be harming the GLBT community because those who’ve suffered a genuine slight may find it more difficult to get support for their cause.
  • Finally, there is a huge difference between paraphrasing, with attribution, and copy+pasting someone else’s work, then calling it your own.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The GLBT and Jewish artistic/literary communities need advocates who aren’t willing to sell their souls for some free swag, people who are willing to provide genuine reviews. And they must be out there, otherwise, from whom could Lassen have plagiarised?

* Some believe that once a review is published on, the author relinquishes the copyright. Not accurate. The author still retains his copyright, however, the author grants a whole lot of leverage to  use, store, and display the review however sees fit.

** No one that I’ve seen claims all 3,000+ reviews were plagiarised, however, it would take far too much manpower to read/compare every single one, especially since a preponderance of them displayed signs of plagiary and the problem was habitual.

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