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Beth Cox Report: June 2013

Dear Loyal Readers, Authors, and Publishers,

Another of the MBR's hard-working computers has just passed away. This time it was my personal computer, not the primary office computer. My habit of backing up copies of all the reviews I write on a USB drive literally saved me a month of work. Since the fallen computer is about seven years old, I've decided that it's time to buy a new one.

For me, the most difficult part of getting a new computer is setting everything up the way I like it. First and foremost, NO WINDOWS 8. The reasons why I will not touch Microsoft's problematic operating system are best articulated in InformationWeek's eye-opening article by Michael Endler, "5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address", at

Perhaps Windows 8's most incriminating flaw is that, as the article emphasizes, it is designed for tablet computer users; it offers nothing for desktop computer users like me. Windows 8 takes away the easy-to-use "Start" button, replacing it with a mind-boggling "Start" screen and a steep learning curve that makes me wonder, "What were they thinking?" I have literally hundreds of books to review; I don't have time to waste re-learning how to use the computer I write book reviews on.

So, I'm purchasing my new computer from a company that will ship it with Windows 7. They'll also include some system restoration disks, in case anything goes wrong with Windows; lately more and more "off the shelf" computers don't come with these, which means that if Windows fails, the user has very few options other than completely wiping the hard drive, or tracking down someone who does have system restoration disks.

The providers of my new computer are Digital Storm, which one of our employees recommended based on positive personal experience. Digital Storm specializes in gaming computers, but that's not what matters most to me; the computer games I occasionally play are so low-end that they could run on the cheapest laptop. I need a computer that's reliable, and Digital Storm goes out of their way to triple-test the functionality and endurance of every computer they ship. They have a solid reputation for quality, even in their most inexpensive pre-built models (which is all my budget can afford).

I believe that more people than just gamers should consider Digital Storm when in the market for a new computer, so I'm naming them the Link of the Month:

We may have narrowly averted yet another computer tragedy. A week ago, I was sorting through work-related emails when I noticed one of many spam messages with an attachment (which almost certainly contained a keylogger, phishing program, or virus). My beloved, yet computer-clueless mother had forwarded it to me!

This particular attack spam was faked to appear like a notice from the package delivery company FedEx. Since we get the occasional book sent to us via FedEx, the spam fooled my mother; she forwarded it to me with a note that she would "download and print it later". (Ack!)

I explained the situation to her (Computer Safety 101 for mothers in their 60's):

"Mom, scammers will disguise their emails as anything to get people to download attached viruses, or visit phishing websites. They will make it look like it's from a bank, AOL, PayPal, UPS, FedEx, or even hijack one of your friend's email accounts."

"Why... why would they do that?"

"Because sending email in bulk is cheap, and they only need to snare a few people to steal enough money to recoup their investment. You must never, ever download anything, click on a hyperlink, or fill out an online form unless you know with absolute certainty who sent it and what it is!"


"Oh, and Mom?"


"This is going in the Beth Cox Report."

Because PayPal is a favorite target of scammers, I took an extra precaution when I set up an MBR PayPal account to accept gifts from people who "support the cause". I tied the PayPal account to a special email created just for that purpose; that way, my father knows that any "PayPal" email sent to his regular business email address is a fake.

Also, I will never allow an MBR "donation" button on our website, or anywhere else. I don't want to risk the possibility that someone could click on a button and think they're giving to the MBR, when in fact they've been routed to an internet thief. It's much safer to have well-wishers log into their own PayPal accounts and send their gifts to our designated PayPal email address (SupportMBR [at], which I selected to be easy to remember and type).

On to the Review of the Month. This one is a preview from the forthcoming July 2013 Library Bookwatch; it's a graphic novel that fascinated me from cover to cover:

Persia Blues Volume 1: Leaving Home
Dara Naraghi & Brent Bowman
NBM Publishing
160 Broadway, Ste. 700, East Wing
New York, NY 10038
9781561637065 $12.99

Iranian-born, US-educated author Dara Naraghi and prize-nominated artist Brent Bowman present Persia Blues Volume 1: Leaving Home, a black-and-white graphic novel for readers of all ages, about a young woman searching for her place in two worlds. Minoo Shirazi is strong-willed and a talented artist, majoring in architecture as a compromise; she chafes at having to live under the oppressive, male-dominated Iranian government, where for a woman to show too much hair is literally a crime, punished severely by the morality police. Yet Minoo is also living a fantastic, sword-and-sorcery adventure in a mystic rendition of ancient Persia, where she and the man she loves battle the evil monsters of Ahriman. The art shifts significantly with the juxtaposed stories, tracing stark, simple lines to portray the modern-day world, while enhancing the ancient world with rich shading. Minoo's complicated relationship with her father - a progressive man by Iranian standards, yet frustratingly protective and principled to a fault - adds an unforgettable touch to this unique, original, and highly recommended contribution to public library graphic novel shelves.

I've long held the opinion that comics and graphic novels should be recognized for their literary potential. Just as a book can be a cheap pulp fiction or a multigenerational classic; just as a movie can be a B-grade thriller or a cultural icon; so, too, do comics have the potential to be simpleminded power fantasies, or wellsprings that make the reader think - about their preconceptions, about making world a better place, or about real-life problems that need to be solved. Persia Blues Volume 1 is an interplay of both dimensions, reading like a standard fantasy adventure one moment and a difficult real-world quandary the next. I sincerely hope we'll get to review Volume 2!

That's all for this month's Beth Cox Report. Enjoy the summer, and stay safe out there in cyberspace!

Bethany Cox
Managing Editor
The Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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