Let’s Promote Dialogue

Discussion Post Stars

Though everyone seems to think they know what plagiarism is, there are shady areas in the process of citation and attribution that can not only confuse writers and bloggers, but also create sources of tension.  Previously I addressed what might or might constitute plagiarism of another blogger’s work and Briana wrote on the topic of stealing images, which many bloggers do, despite a widespread understanding among bloggers that one does not simply steal another person’s words.

Interestingly, despite the seemingly widespread image theft in the book blogosphere, bloggers tend to advocate for a stricter definition of plagiarism than is accepted even in academia.  When one writes in academia, the common metaphor used is that of a person entering a conversation; one person writes an article, then another person responds.  The initial author may then write back.  Other voices will probably join in.  And all of these voices are also constantly referring back to even older voices, citing scholars from the past or authors long dead.  In the book blogosphere, however, this type of conversation is frequently shut down on the basis of “plagiarism.”  That is, book bloggers often seem to feel that if they post about a topic, they now have proprietary rights to it.  Because they wrote about how to balance blogging and life, for example, no other blogger can write about the blogging and life balance because they decided to write about it first.

Before we go any further, let me assure you that I detest plagiarism.  It is unacceptable to steal another person’s work or idea and pretend it is your own. It is not an act without consequences, even if you make no money from what you did.  You have still victimized someone. You may have even caused them a loss in profits or in followers.  Imagine someone taking a photograph they want to sell as an exclusive print–but then it’s posted all over the Internet by bloggers who think they can do so because their blog is just a hobby and they get nothing from it.  Now the print is no longer exclusive and the artist lost his or her livelihood.  Plagiarism is sloppy at best, criminal at worst.

Speaking about broad topics, however, is not plagiarism.  Just as more than one person can write a review for the same book, so can more than one person chime in to the conversation on a general topic.  Not allowing others to speak on a topic we have addressed is counterproductive, even dangerous.   Imagine the following hypothetical scenarios:

  • A blogger writes that The Legend of Korra should be banned because the protagonist is bisexual.
  • A blogger writes that they are glad Agent Carter has been cancelled because they’re sick of the PC-police forcing us to have female leads on television.
  • A blogger writes that children should not be allowed to watch Disney princess movies because they are “anti-feminist.”

In academia, scholars would respond to these arguments and broaden our understanding of tolerance and of the importance of the media in promoting equality.  They might begin interesting discussions about what “feminism” is.  The original blogger who dislikes Disney princesses might think you can’t be a feminist if you get married.  Perhaps the responses would argue that feminism encompasses the choices of all women, even those who wish to have a traditional romance and marriage.

In the book blogosphere, however, unusually strict definitions of plagiarism might mean that the original writers ask other bloggers not to respond.  Talking about sexuality and feminism in The Legend of Korra or in Agent Carter is “their thing.”   They thought to do it first, so now no one else is allowed to broach these topics.  But do we really want one voice to control the conversation?  What happens when we shut down discourse on the basis of “plagiarism”–a definition of plagiarism that even a university would not recognize?

Opening the conversation to a wide array of voices can only be beneficial.  No perspective is entirely unbiased and the way a white middle-class woman raised in the suburbs responds to a topic may be very different from the way a woman of color raised in the city responds.  Allowing different perspectives to interact with and respond to each other not only broadens our understanding of the topic but can also help us become more empathetic individuals.  Would the average white American ever have recognized the issues that led to the Black Lives Matter movement if Black voices had not been raised and spoken to the lived experiences of Black Americans?  How could a white American begin to understand another perspective if that perspective continues to be silenced?

Of course, in many ways the conversations book bloggers have tend to be of lower stakes.  Trying to claim the sole right to talk about when to comment on a blog or how often to schedule posts is not the same as silencing minority voices on matters of representation.  However, shutting down small conversations still creates an unnecessary power dynamic where one person becomes the interpreter of what it is acceptable to do and not do to on a blog.  And shutting down small conversations can lead us to shutting down larger conversations.  Bloggers often speak about diversity in books and media, for example, because we recognize that representation matters.  But why should one person get to arbitrate what counts as fair or equal representation?  Are we comfortable with one voice speaking for us all?

If we want to engage in interesting conversations, if we want to create knowledge together, if we want to ensure that previously silenced voices now receive representation, we need to open up our dialogue.  We need to embrace those who respond to us; those who challenge us; those who show us ways in which our ideas can be extended, adapted, and modified.  We need to talk.

Krysta 64

Top Ten Tuesday (130): Books I Feel Differently About

TTT starsTop Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week is about the books I changed my mind about over the years.

  1. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene: As I grew up, I realized Nancy Drew is a bit of Mary Sue–but that doesn’t keep me from loving her, anyway.
  2. Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis: I still love it, but I realized when I was older that there really isn’t much going on, plot-wise.
  3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare: I vaguely enjoyed Shakespeare’s tragedies while in high school, but didn’t fully appreciate Shakespeare as a playwright until I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.
  4. Emma by Jane Austen: I didn’t like Emma until I saw Romola Garai’s portrayal of her–young and light-hearted, rather than malicious.
  5. Some of C. S. Lewis’s nonfiction: It’s hard to overlook some of his statements on women that do sound a little sexist.  I’m sorry, Lewis.  I like you.  I really do.  But I am offended.
  6. Some of G. K. Chesterton’s work:  I enjoy his Father Brown mysteries and some of his other work, but I am confused as to why no one ever mentions his clear anti-Semitism.  Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.
  7. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: I didn’t know for awhile that Dumas’s grandmother was an African woman and a slave, or that he experienced racism.  He wrote Georges, set in Mauritius, which addresses race in a way many of his other works do not.

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman (Mini Review)

Legacy of Kings


Legacy of KingsInformation

Goodreads: Legacy of Kings
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #1
Source: ARC from ALA
Published: August 18, 2015

Official Summary

Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to a newcomer…

Katerina must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But she doesn’t account for her first love…

Jacob will go to unthinkable lengths to win Katerina, even if it means having to compete for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince.

And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet betrothed, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the shocking details of real history, New York Times bestselling author of Sex with Kings Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known, Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

Review

I read Legacy of Kings several weeks ago, but as I sit down to write my review, I realize I remember very little about it.  This haze characterizes my reading of the novel.  On a technical level, it was impressive, balancing several POVs and plot lines, yet in the end little about it was striking enough to leave me with an impression–either positive or negative.

The book jacket compares Legacy of Kings to A Game of Thrones, and I’m beginning to think that’s publishing code for “This contains an enormous number of characters, most of whom are unlikable.  You will read about many people, yet be invested in few.”  That was my experience with with this novel, at any rate. Admittedly, Alexander isn’t a bad guy, but he’s not a great guy. I wasn’t really getting the “great hero and conqueror vibe” from him quite yet.   I wasn’t getting an epic feel.

Plot-wise, I found much of the book predictable.  The ending was just as I expected.  I would have liked to experience a bit more excitement and suspense, particularly from a book of this length.  I would also have liked to see more forward momentum into the next book, but as things are, I’m going to stop reading the series.

As a work of literature, Legacy of Kings does have a lot of things going for it: great premise, fantastic historical research, a diverse group of characters.  Unfortunately, none of it really drew me in.  I like books with a little more heart, that can get me invested in the characters in the stories, rather than ones that put all their energy into background and world-building.
3 stars Briana

Secret History by Brandon Sanderson (Mini Review, Spoiler Free)

Secret HistoryInformation

Goodreads: Secret History
Series: Mistborn #3.5
Source: Purchased
Published: January 26, 2016

Official Summary

Mistborn: Secret History is a companion story to the original Mistborn trilogy.

As such, it contains HUGE SPOILERS for the books Mistborn (The Final Empire), The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. It also contains very minor spoilers for the book The Bands of Mourning.

Mistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best.

In short, this isn’t the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy—but it has been a while—you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.)

Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story’s existence is, in a way, a spoiler.

There’s always another secret.

Review

As you can see from the official summary, saying basically anything specific about this book is considered a spoiler (I’ve seen bloggers agree), which makes it really hard to write a review. However, I’ll try to be as vague as possible while still being helpful.

I’m torn on this book because on one hand I thought it was fascinating to read–not necessarily because of the secrets revealed but just because it has a really great plot. Sanderson knows how to write excitement, and he doesn’t fall short in this novella.  It’s just a really good read.

On the other hand, I’m a little sad I read this because it really exemplifies Sanderson’s need to try to explain everything about his fantasy worlds.  I follow the school of Tolkien in thinking it adds something to a fantasy to have some things left unexplained, to believe there’s also something more, wonderful and mysterious, just back another layer.  Sanderson is all about stripping away mystique to prove to readers he has an explanation for everything, and I don’t always want one. However, I’m a sucker for anything he writes, so he could publish something titled “How Exactly My Entire Cosmere Functions” and I would buy it.

I’ve seen other readers suggest reading this only about Mistborn #6, which is what I did. However, I think I personally would have been fine reading it after Mistborn #3 and perhaps would have preferred that.  It’s been a while since I read the original Mistborn trilogy, and I would have liked to remember more of the details from that in order to read this novella.  That said, a general knowledge was sufficient, if not ideal.

4 stars Briana

Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (5/22/16)

Interesting Posts

  1. Cait lists 10 dreadful things that will happen if you read too much.
  2. Kaja talks about people watching as a reader.
  3. Lola explains how to get ARCs from publishers.
  4. Ellen gives advice for becoming a beta reader.
  5. Stephanie has set up a service to help you find the perfect co-blogger.
  6. Kaitlin asks what the point of growing your blog is.
  7. Keionda wonders what type of blogger you are.
  8. Kimberly reminds us why we shouldn’t steal images online.
  9. Stephanie lists some of the saddest moments in literature.
  10. Maha explains why it’s totally ok to DNF a popular book.

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson

Nooks and CranniesInformation

Goodreads: Nooks & Crannies
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: June 2, 2015

Official Summary

Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn’t have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.

Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed— a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test.

Review

Nooks & Crannies is the perfect read for those who need a bit of mystery in their lives.  The book is a fun take on the girl who likes mystery novels being swept up into a real, live mystery–in this case, one that could be deadly.  Balancing light-hearted humor and dark secrets, Nooks & Crannies takes mystery seriously.

In many ways, the book was not quite what I was expecting, which was refreshing.  Though parts of the mystery are easy to figure out, others are not, which will keep even adult readers entertained.  I was also surprised by the roles of the other children.  I was anticipating the children pooling their talents in the manner of The Mysterious Benedict Society to solve the mystery, but the book really is more in the mode of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Some of the children are simply there to be annoying.

However, there is a fantastic range of characters, from the varied children themselves to the hired help at the manor to the Countess and the parents.  There’s also Pemberley the mouse who, while not a magical talking companion, is quite endearing.  He’s also very brave and a lovely addition to the book for anyone who can’t help but fall in love with literary animals.

I will say I’m starting to become concerned about the number of abusive parents portrayed in middle grade–not because such parents don’t exist or because I think children need to be protected from the idea, but because in middle grade abuse is so often portrayed as humorous.  It’s as if characterizing the parents as really, really bad and making ridiculous demands of their child and stuffing them away in a corner of the attic somehow makes the situation comically absurd rather than disturbing.  While I don’t want to burden Nooks & Crannies with all the responsibilities for this, I do wish authors would do something more with child abuse.  A way out for the child that doesn’t involve a crazy adventure, serendipity, and a kindly stranger adopting them might be a start, as the trope usually goes.

Otherwise, however, Nooks & Crannies is a thoroughly engrossing tale.  I’ll stop short of calling it “charming” because it’s too caught up in details of murders and other grisly mysteries, and it’s not always shy of representing humans at their worst.  Both children and adults can be quite nasty in this book.  Yet the story is ultimately hopeful and has positive messages about what spunk, careful observance, and bravery can do for a girl.

4 stars Briana

How to Find a Great Co-Blogger

Discussion Post Stars

Why You Might Want a Co-Blogger

I’ve been speculating for a while that the future of book blogging may be co-blogging. As “successful” book bloggers are expected to take on increasing responsibilities, from keeping up with bookish news to taking their own photos to running multiple social media accounts, I think bloggers who want to try to make it “big” in our corner of the Internet may find themselves wanting co-bloggers to keep up with the tasks.

Many of us are reluctant to take on co-bloggers, either due to a simple desire to maintain independence in blogging or due to hearing horror stories of other people’s co-bloggers that didn’t quite work out.  (Pages Unbound actually had two former co-bloggers who just disappeared without a word. One never even posted anything beyond her introduction post.)

However, it is possible to find a co-blogger who will work with you, not against you (or just not work at all).  So if you’re ready to take the plunge and want to set up an application for a co-blogger, there are just a few things you need to ask applicants to make sure you’ll be on the same page as co-bloggers..

What Do You Need in a Co-Blogger?

The first thing you need to determine is exactly what you want a co-blogger to do.  Think of this as an official job opening.  The position should have a job description that that tells applicants what type of experience you want your co-blogger to have already and what duties you expect them to perform.  Don’t just ask someone to “join your blog” without telling them what you mean by that or without knowing yourself what you mean by the request.  Are you going to be equal partners?  Or will you be still be “in charge” of the blog?  Are you asking the co-blogger simply to write content for the blog, or do you want them to help with other tasks?  Think about adding the four questions below to your co-blogger application process to make sure you get the co-blogger you want.

Update: If you are looking for a co-blogger, Stephanie from Rantings, Ravings, and Ramblings has put together an application to help match bloggers up! Check it out here!

Co-blogging (1)-min