The Anguish of Posting a 2-Star Review of a Colleague’s Book


As an #Indie #Author, I am keenly sensitive to the ways we are each other’s main support. We have no publishing house, no “team” dedicated to our book unless we gather that team ourselves and pay them individually. Because of this, I have made it a point to join groups on Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere in the blogosphere of fellow indie authors, bloggers and reviewers in order to support one another and be part of a “team.”

Some of these teams are better than others, and I have left a couple of them already (in less than a few months of membership) due to a lack of the very support I joined to acquire. However, some are excellent. #RaveReviewsBookClub is one of those. Its founder, president and fellow author, Nonnie Jules, and the team she has gathered to moderate and administrate the site and its activities (which are many!) are top-notch.

RRBC GOVERNING BOARD MEMBERS:

President – @nonniejules

V. President & Mentor Program Director – @bruceaborders

Secretary & Blog Tour Host Co-Ordinator – @mlh42812

Membership Director – @kathrynctreat

PR/Marketing Director – @DanicaCornell

Newsletter Co-Ordinator – @sharrislaughter

Reviews Co-Ordinator – @voiceofindie

“SPOTLIGHT” Author Consultant – @TeriGarringer

I highly recommend joining this FREE group if you are an indie author wanting to get and provide reviews and other types of support: Nonnie’s own site (which leads to the RRBC site) is: http://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/

I belong to several other great Facebook groups: Clean Indie Reads, Amazon Author Support, Female Writers, Science-Fiction Romance Brigade, Gutsy Indie Publishers, eNovel Authors at Work, and more. Many have their own blog or websites and activities beyond Facebook cross-postings and support.

On Google+, I have recently joined several groups that I appreciate. Except for #BookMarketingTools, which provides biweekly Google On Air tools and info shows called “The Author Hangout,” hosted by Shawn Manahar (@ShawnManaher), I am not yet “known” or know many members since I’m not very active, yet.

I am “in” many groups on Goodreads and LinkedIn, but mostly as a reader or sometimes visiting poster/”liker”. Not active, often, as an author, yet. Very much appreciate the tips, tools, ideas and support these offer, regardless of how often I visit, comment or post.

All this is by way of saying: I am anguished to have to post a low rating and poor review of a fellow club member’s indie book. But, I just did. I had to. I do not do many reviews mostly because I am usually writing, marketing and job hunting or working as a consultant: in short, too busy. But,a requirement of joining some groups is to do reviews occasionally.

So, I recently chose a book from the options provided that I thought I’d like and began to read. You can see the results, below.

BTW: When I knew I wasn’t going to be able to give the book a positive review, I reached out to the club moderator, who was very helpful and supportive of my honesty and professional opinions. I also reached out directly to the author. I told her my dilemma and offered her some minimal feedback and also to provide more. She responded and thanked me, but declined.

Since we couldn’t communicate privately, I put my feedback into this review. I sincerely hope my comments and questions inform the author so that, when she is ready to hire an editor and a proofreader for her next book, some new team members could be hired who are better than this book had.

Review of C.E. Wolff‘s Common Denominator

Disappointing: unrealistic and 2-D characters, horrible story arc, unbelievable plot points, poorly proofread /unevenly edited

Common Denominator cover
http://www.amazon.com/Common-Denominator-C-E-Wolff-ebook/dp/B00G8SE5RC

I rarely give bad reviews and hesitate to post this one. I wanted to like this book. I was pulled in, at first. Somewhat interesting story, main characters, situations. Despite some proofreading errors, I continued. Wanted to give a new author the benefit of the doubt.

Then, the number of mistakes became ridiculous. Simple things, but signs of amateurish teamwork that are very frustrating and give indie pubs a bad name. Examples: confusions between “their” and “they’re,” “your” and “you’re,” other spelling and grammar mistakes and overall sentence structure. These all fell short of good publishing standards by a lot. Whatever this author paid the proofreader, it was too much. She should get a refund.

Not wanting to give up because I had made a commitment to review this book, I continued. Parts of the story line and the two main characters showed some promise. However, every one of the secondary characters was a stereotype, without exception. They were 2-dimensionally and boringly depicted or came across as numbingly inconsistent. Each character was an insult to some group: women, men, British citizens, gays, mothers and criminals of all kinds. “Bimbo”? Really? Calling her own sister a “wench”? Harping on age differences between lovers, then going along with it: which is it?

Why are the criminals all “sinister” with zero back stories? Why does the main antagonist have no obvious motivation? We learn more about her taste in clothes and plastic surgery than we ever do about what makes her do what she does.

The main plot, a supposed thirty-year “love” story, is flat-out ridiculous.Maybe if these characters were in their mid-twenties, we could believe they didn’t yet acknowledge/know their true feelings for each other, having been childhood friends, blah blah blah. But, they’re hovering around and over 40, have stayed “best friends” all their lives, and work together every day. Meanwhile, they continually trash each others’ dates/lovers. Unless they have recurring amnesia or personality disorders, the concept is absurd.

The female main character’s obsession with her appearance, physical attributes, clothing and underwear, even in the middle of public places, might have been funny if it weren’t so dysfunctional and unbelievable. What 39-year-old professional, educated woman, the VP of a large corporation, doesn’t know how to dress and conduct herself in public?

And, what 42-year-old male behaves sexually as if he’s seventeen? i could just be out of touch, I suppose. A president of a successful corporation who has remained unmarried and not become a parent obviously has issues.

This begs the question: what do these two see in each other? They’re each a mess. Are they supposed to be anti-heroes? Success.

Whatever she paid the editor: also too much. There is a horrible amount of repetition: I swear, the main character and her sister have the exact same conversations, about two basic topics, more than three times. So do the two main characters. Why? Does this book’s editor not know how to tell an author to CUT and when to insert new material?

The subplots are so thin as to be pulled directly from someone else’s novels and plopped into this one. Not even worth recounting. Cliche after cliche abounds without even one redeeming original moment. Could have phoned it all in.

I stuck it out to the end, hoping she would redeem it, and then POOF: it just stops. No actual ending, no resolution worth discussing.

Up until the non-ending, i was willing to give it three stars for effort and blame most of the problems on her “helpers,” but I just can’t. Two stars. Readers: not worth your time.

I was not paid to review nor did I get the book for free.

P.S. I posted the review on Goodreads and Amazon about two days prior to posting this entry on my blog. On the night of the second day the review appeared, I received this notice: “Fred liked your review of Common Denominator on Goodreads!” This book is also receiving a lot of 5-Star reviews. So it goes!

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2 thoughts on “The Anguish of Posting a 2-Star Review of a Colleague’s Book

  1. You did the right thing. Honesty, it sometimes seems, is almost verboten between authors! I know some authors decline to leave a review for a book if it’s below 3-star quality, but I don’t think that’s fair to readers deciding whether or not to part with their money. If indie authors can honestly review each others work, without taking it personally, it will ultimately give readers more confidence in the standards of self-published material.

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    • Thanks for your kind and supportive comment, and for making a comment at all (very rare, in my experience!).

      BTW: I read some of the other reviews of this and other books that had 1-star reviews and decided to do a follow-up post that will appear this Friday, 5/16. Let me know what you think!

      Best to you. Sally

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