Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


Friday News: Facebook wants to violate your privacy again, device security faces new challenges, food poisonings revealed via Yelp, and reviving old words

Friday News: Facebook wants to violate your privacy again, device security...

Do You Want Facebook Listening to Your iPhone? – Type in a Facebook update over your iPhone and everything the phone hears will be recorded, part of Facebook’s ambition to link everything in your life to, well, pretty much everyone else. Apparently this is an opt-in feature, but it’s not clear how that will happen or what the terms of this new “service” are, and it’s especially creepy in the context of Facebook’s dubious relationship to user privacy.

A more important question: will the app be able to pick up any audio over the deafening bliss-screams of the NSA, the chorus of stunned laughs and high fives from the Beltway? No matter how often or egregiously Facebook mangles our expectations of personal privacy and social boundaries, we keep giving it another chance. And another, and another. Even after learning Facebook has more or less collaborated with the NSA for years, everyone gets excited all over again when the company announces a brand new way to hand over personal sensor data: –Valley Wag

If you think our security sitch is bad now, wait till you get a load of the internet of things – While we’re on the subject of privacy, check out this article about how our ability to network more and more devices is making those devices more vulnerable to security attacks. In an environment where anti-virus software is pretty much beside the point, there is a movement to shift the security discussion toward new anti-hacking strategies. Scary but important.

But, there’s a rash of shiny new devices connecting to the internet that are also vulnerable to a remote attack and that requires a new way to think about security – and this will be a topic at the upcoming Structure show in San Francisco June 18-19. And then there is an array of less glamorous connected things that predate the IoT hype cycle, and that most people don’t even think about as being vulnerable. Your printer, for example, could be a disaster waiting to happen, said Patrick Gilmore, CTO of Boston-based data center provider Markley Group (and former network architect at Akamai.) –Gigaom

In food poisoning probes, officials call for Yelp – And there are times when having the government watching might not be so terrible. Take this New York CIty Health Department program, for example, that partnered with Yelp to track down health violations via consumer complaints of illness in restaurant reviews. It looks like the program accounted for about ten percent of the cases the Health Department identifies annually.

Officials reached out to Yelp, and the website agreed to help with a pilot project, said the health department’s Dr. Sharon Balter. Crucial to their investigations is finding the people who get sick, and Yelp members have email accounts that can make that easier, she said.

Yelp sent the health department weekly roundups of restaurant reviews for nine months, beginning in mid-2012. Computer searches narrowed them to postings that mentioned someone getting sick. Investigators focused on illnesses that occurred between 12 and 36 hours after a meal — the time frame for most symptoms of food poisoning to surface. –Yahoo

16 Weird Forgotten English Words We Should Bring Back – Forget your traditional word-a-day vocabulary builder. Who needs the dictionary when you can revive a word like “crapulence,” or “night-hag,” or “nimgimmer” (say that one three times fast). As in, ‘I’m surprised there aren’t more nimgimmers in Historical Romance to treat notorious rake heroes.’ The English language; a gift that keeps on giving. –Mental Floss

Note: Next Tuesday, May 27th, is the Dear Author Book Club. This month we’re featuring The Windflower, by Laura London (aka Tom and Sharon Curtis), with a joint review by Sunita and me and a Q&A from the Curtises. Also, I think I’m going to be giving away one of my first edition paperbacks of the book (I have a slight hoarding problem with copies of The Windflower).

In the meantime, can you identify the classic Romance to which the opening scene of the book pays homage? (Sunita picked up on this allusion right away, but I did not)

Thursday News: iPhone too small and expensive, is Star Wars just for white men, new imprint at Little, Brown, and an interview with Andrés Neuman

Thursday News: iPhone too small and expensive, is Star Wars just...

Internal Apple presentation on the iPhone: ‘Consumers want what we don’t have’ – A very interesting post, based on Apple’s internal slides from the Samsung-Apple legal morass, which shows that the market spot that the iPhone controls is basically outside what consumers want on both price (less than $300) and size (bigger display). I have to admit that the Galaxy screen is starting to look mighty appealing, especially since the iPhone has really not changed much over the last iteration or so. Will this spur change for Apple? I sure hope so.

Apple’s error in moving to the phablet segment may simply be a temporary blunder that is easily corrected later this year — or it may be a huge mistake that is too late to fix now that Android devices with 5- or 6-inch screens are deeply entrenched and starting to drift below $300 price point. –BGR

The Potential Energy of Major Star Wars Events – I’m not sure why, exactly, but I have to admit that I would think that anyone involved with the production of Star Wars products would have a more astute understanding of the diverse makeup of the series’ fan base, and thus, a more astute understanding of the value of reflecting that diversity in fan events. However, the company that produces some of these events — ReedPop — apparently lacks this perception. The upcoming Star Wars Celebration event in Anaheim features an all male group of stage hosts, as are all the participants announced to participate in the Star Wars Reads Day. ReedPop also organizes BookCon, and this year’s panel for children’s books was all white males. Of course, given the recent VIDA data on the creators of children’s books, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised after all.

I’ll reiterate what I have stated previously: Episode VII will not win the box office in 2015 without female fans as engaged as their male fans. The movie is up against Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both Lionsgate and Marvel have been actively building traction with female and non-white fans. Disney|Lucasfilm keeps making many positive steps forward in its efforts to prove Star Wars is for everybody, including adding more diversity to the creators presented in Star Wars Rebels videos and the addition of Vanessa Marshall at the Star Wars Rebels panel at Wondercon this weekend. There is a lot of potential energy in the way upcoming events like Celebration and Star Wars Reads Day are being framed, but it’s being hindered by the unintended adverse messages. Some planning and awareness now can avoid the two steps forward, one step back dynamic. –Fan Girl Blog

Boudreaux to Head New Imprint at Little, Brown – So not all of traditional publishing is contracting, it seems. Lee Boudreaux is moving from Harper Collins to Little, Brown, where she will head up a new imprint (she was editorial director of HC’s imprint Ecco). I have to say that I’m happy to see a woman getting her own imprint and will be interested to see what she acquires.

Boudreaux has been at Ecco for the last nine years where, among other titles, she acquired bestsellers like the runaway smash by debut novelist David Wrobleski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (2008), and quieter literary successes such as Patrick DeWitt’s Sisters Brothers (2011). –Publishers Weekly

Conquering Displacement With Words – So I’m too lazy to link back to the story on the Dublin Literary Award, but this article profiles Spanish-Argentine writer Andrés Neuman, whose book, Traveler of the Century, was nominated (I even used the cover of his book for the featured image of the story). I did not realize that Neuman has written almost 20 books (and he’s only 37), with Traveler his first book translated into English. His second book to be published in English, Talking to Ourselves, comes out this month, and Neuman insists that each book he writes “refutes” the one before it. The Times calls it “a literary adventure that pays tribute to the classic road tales.”

“I deal with the trauma of displacement through writing,” Mr. Neuman said. His émigré family had shifted many borders to arrive in a new world. In a 2003 novel, “Una Vez Argentina” (“Once Upon a Time, Argentina”), he writes about his immigrant ancestors, including his paternal great-grandfather Jacobo, a Jew in Poland who escaped near-certain death doing military service in Siberia. Jacobo purloined the passport of a German soldier, whose last name was Neuman, and escaped with it to Argentina, becoming just that, a “new man.”

Mr. Neuman wrote about Argentina in his first two novels, but as he gets further from the country chronologically, his novels have come to inhabit imaginary territories, which he says are like “alephs,” referring to a story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, in which the aleph is a central point that folds into it all places and times. –New York Times