Category: amazon reviews.

Hugh Howey at DearAuthor; Miss Kentucky Was Queer; God Punishes Gays

Hugh Howey at DearAuthor

When I was in college, I took a chemistry requirement in the summer. On the first day of class, the professor walked into the room, dropped her briefcase, and said, “I’d like to inform you that if you have part time jobs you’re going to have to quit in order to keep up with this class because I’m the most demanding professor in this department. If that’s an issue with anyone, feel free to leave right now.” I looked around the lecture room at all the terrified faces, grabbed my books, and stood up. As I turned to leave I smiled at the professor and just kept walking toward the door. I dropped that summer course, picked it up the following September with another professor I knew I wouldn’t have an issue with, and I received an A. I learned early that some people, like that condescending professor in the summer course, tend to make life more difficult than it has to be.

As I was reading a blog post at the DearAuthor web site, it reminded me of that story and that professor. The post is titled, Is Genre Fiction Creating a Market for Lemons? It’s a highly subjective (opinionated) piece written with an elitist academic voice that discusses self-published books, book reviews, and book prices. And while I agree with many of the points made, I found it a little insulting in a “sui generis” way and I doubt most of the people reading genre fiction today would even bother to finish it, which is unfortunate. In other words, I could have just said I found it insulting in a “unique” way, but used “sui generis” to either impress you or make you feel stupid. Because, you know, I went to college and I have them big time degrees hanging on my wall.

In any event, I think you get my point. But the post does get interesting when the author brings up Hugh Howey’s books. It doesn’t get easier to read; just interesting. It’s a clever passive aggressive approach that at one point questions Amazon reviews and the quality of reviews. Again, it’s subjective and in a way it points out some of the issues I’ve posted about previously with regard to all reviews in a general sense. Just look at the reviews I’ve posted about for the TV show, Looking, and the various ways so many gay men have received the show. When I reviewed a review of Looking I wanted to point this out clearly. I also find that the reviews for Looking are honest and balanced…even though I don’t agree with them all. That honesty and balance I find with Looking reviews doesn’t always happen for me with Amazon reviews.

If you can manage to get through the entire DA post, you’ll find a very interesting comment thread where author, Hugh Howey, replies to the author of the post in that humble, down-home, honest way he has that could melt proverbial butter. One comment he made in particular made me read twice:

I remember thinking, when my reviews hit 3,000+ and the book still had a 5-star average, that this was getting ridiculous, and could it please stop. It was a great relief to see the average fall to 4.5 stars, which was less obnoxious.

Talk about sui generis. I can only say that I have worked in publishing for over twenty years. I have best friends who have worked in publishing for over forty years. And I have never once, not in all that time, heard anyone say they wish they had less good reviews. And that’s because I have never seen anyone get only good reviews. Never. Most reviews for most books are always balanced…or at least somewhat balanced. If you don’t believe me hop over to goodreads and check out the reviews for Pulitzer Prize winning authors like Anne Tyler.

There are also a few comments on the thread left by the always graceful romance author, Courtney Milan, who has a gift for balancing the most subjective topics in the most elegant, civil ways.

You can read the entire piece here. I think it’s worth the time and effort just to read the comment thread alone. And, for the record, in spite of my own snark, I don’t disagree with the post by any means. I just wish it had been written with less condescension and more to the point. Because the topic is something we’re all dealing with now: authors, self-published authors, publishers, and readers. Most of us are not happy about it.

God Punishes Gays

Lately, there seems to be something more outrageous in the news as each day passes. This time it’s about a pastor in Tennessee who thinks God punishes gays and lesbians by making them effeminate or mannish. Ugh!

‘God turning people over to their own desires, men lusting after men, women after women, and they receive in their own bodies the penalties for their sin,’ he says, as Right Wing Watch first reported.

 ‘I have watched people go into a lifestyle, and all of a sudden they become…a man starts to become very effeminate – mannerisms, speech.

‘I’ve seen the reverse, I’ve seen the same thing with women [who] start becoming mannish.

‘What’s going on? They’re taking in their bodies a penalty for deviating from God’s loving design and plan.’

You can read more here. This one is pretty self-explanatory. I just feel sorry for the people who believe this guy.

Miss Kentucky Was Queer

In a piece that directly negates the above post with regard to effeminate and mannish gays, a former Miss Kentucky recently came out and said she’s queer.

Her passion has been really ‘fueled’ by a federal judge, who ordered the state of Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages on Thursday (27 February). ]

As a child, Trent describes how she couldn’t understand why God made her ‘wrong’.

She said she was scared her family members were going to walk out of her life if she were to admit she is queer.

She’s absolutely beautiful, on the inside and out.

You can read more here.

Review: My Hero by Max Vos

Review: My Hero by Max Vos

I would normally leave this kind of short review on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’m not sure anymore about their guidelines with respect to authors reviewing other authors in their genres. Even though none of my reviews have ever been removed from Amazon, I figured I would post it here on the blog instead of taking that chance. Authors are readers, too. Authors also read other authors within the same genre all time as well. We shop for books and sometimes we like to review them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I heard about My Hero by Max Vos last week on social media, and I’ve read a few things by this author in the past and I’ve always enjoyed his work. So in full disclosure I did come to this book with a few set expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised in a different way this time.  This book seemed to have even more intimacy than past fiction I’ve read from the author. I love stories were fate seems to play a hidden role, and the clever way the two main characters came to know each other reminded me of past experiences I’ve had. I also like stories with football players who are typical jocks, and yet just a little bit different from the stereotypical jock.

The main characters, Johnny and Rich, meet up again after not seeing each other for a while.  (I also liked the fact that I could pronounce their names, remember their names, and that they had normal names.) Johnny is straight. Rich is gay. And the initial conflict begins when the two men find themselves in a situation that could be detrimental to Johnny’s reputation. Johnny, however, doesn’t seem as intimidated as he should be and comes off looking more interested than he probably should. This is also a quality of the story that I found highly realistic (and erotic) in the sense that these situations happen all the time and no one really knows about it. I’ve been listening to a similar story in real life recently, only with two middle aged men. My point is, without giving out spoilers, that it’s handled well and I could relate to it as a gay man, which I like to do when I’m reading gay fiction.

The book is sexy, and the sex does what it’s supposed to do: move the story forward, and help the characters grow. For me, that’s as plain and simple as good erotica gets. It’s emotional in some parts, and I found myself relating to the characters all over again. It’s a fast read, the character development continues throughout the book, and I found a few amusing/entertaining family situations, too. And it wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be. I found myself surprised a few times when I least expected it. I would recommend this story without thinking twice, and I’ll most likely go back and read this one again down the line because the characters are already so memorable.

I purchased this book at Amazon. Here’s the link to the Amazon page. I still might leave the review there as a verified purchase eventually. If I do I’ll give it five stars.

Mixed Reviews for "The Butler" Book on Amazon

Mixed Reviews for The Butler Book on Amazon

There are 120 reader reviews for The Butler on Amazon as of right now. There are 37 5 star reviews, 10 4 star, 21 3 star, 19 2 star, and 33 1 star reviews. The main reason why I’m curious about the reviews is that I’ve been thinking about buying the book because I love things like this, and reading about topics that deal with civil rights and the entire movement.

However, two family members recently bought The Butler and both said the same thing at two different times. They were disappointed because it was so short, they were disappointed with the content and wanted to read more about Eugene Allen, and they both felt as if they had paid too much money to read a digital book that felt more like the advertisement for a film.

And from what I’ve read in the lower ratings a lot of Amazon readers seem to agree with the two people I know.

 A complete waste of money. Nothing more than a promo news release for the movie. This is the worst excuse for a book I’ve ever read. Read the movie reviews, you’ll get more out if it for nothing.

And this one is similar to the one above, and many others:

Very disappointing waste of money. I hoped to read the book before seeing the movie. The book was essentially how the movie was made and not the story itself.

On the other hand, there are matched 5 star reviews to the 1 star reviews. Some are long and politically charged, and I passed them over because I was more interested in reading about the book, not someone’s personal political opinions. But not all of them are political. This 5 star review is excellent as far as reviews go. Frankly, I think it’s better than the book’s product description.

Contrary to some readers’ expectations, this is not a novelization of the film. It’s the author’s firsthand account of finding and befriending the real-life butler and his family, paired with an illuminating essay on black representation in Hollywood. Haygood’s words are chosen with economy and care. He distills emotion masterfully, never belaboring the story’s significance or reducing the butler himself to a symbol. He emerges, like the book itself, as courtly but containing multitudes. A short read that lingers long in the heart.

Now, take into consideration I know nothing about the book and I depend on the book product description to know what it’s about.


From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation’s imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams; as well as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, and Liev Schreiber. With a foreword by the Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels, The Butler not only explores Allen’s life and service to eight American Presidents, from Truman to Reagan, but also includes an essay, in the vein of James Baldwin’s jewel The Devil Finds Work, that explores the history of black images on celluloid and in Hollywood, and fifty-seven pictures of Eugene Allen, his family, the presidents he served, and the remarkable cast of the movie.

Now, this is where I find it interesting. That book description really sucks. They mention all the names of the film stars in the movie, which is not relevant to the book at all. Whoever the PR genius was who wrote it, should be fired.

And this is why I’m always talking about vetting books, especially the more expensive digital books released by large publishers, because you never know what you’re going to get unless to check around in more than a few places first. The two people I know who read this book felt cheated, and they will be watching out the next time a book like this comes along.

As of today, The Butler is number one in three different categories on Amazon in spite of the one star warnings. And even after all this, I’m still on the fence about whether or not I’ll buy the book and read it. And that’s because of this review in the Washington Post.

The book also describes how African Americans are woefully underrepresented in the motion picture industry. “Filmmakers are, after all, ultimate gamblers,” Haygood writes. “Throw race into the gamble, and the predictions get a lot trickier.” He notes that while many African American-themed films feature a white savior, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (as it’s being called because of a copyright dispute) will break that mold.

From that description is sounds like something I’d enjoy, especially the part about how Hollywood is always screwing over all minorities. If I do read it, I’ll post my review here. As for those who say the book is too expensive, it’s listed for $5.50 in the Kindle version right now. I know people who spend more on one drink on a Saturday night and don’t even think twice about it.

Amazon Reviews and E-mail Spamming; The Pocket Hose Gimmick

I hadn’t planned on posting about this today, but I thought it was interesting. And I think it might be something other people might want to know if they decide to place product reviews on Amazon.

When you post a book review on Amazon for one of my books, I’m NOT going to spam you the moment the review goes live. And I don’t think any of the publishers I work with are going to do that either. As a reader, I’ve never been spammed because of a book review I’ve left on Amazon.

But I’m not so sure about other Amazon products. And if there is one thing I despise, it’s spam for a product I didn’t like.

Earlier this summer, I bought a garden hose I’d seen advertised on TV…The Pocket Hose. Actually, I bought two of them at $19.99 each. This is their web site. I purchased my hose at CVS, where they have an entire row of shelves dedicated to products that are advertised on TV. I’d seen the Pocket Hose on TV and I thought it would be fantastic. I have a lot of property and I spend a lot of time working outside, and I’m constantly looking for things like the Pocket Hose to make life a little easier. What could be more perfect than a hose that doesn’t kink and twist?

Unfortunately, The Pocket Hose only lasted for about a week or so. At first it worked great, and it did save me a lot of time. But after the third or fourth time I used it the poorly designed plastic part that connects to the outdoor faucet started to leak and it was rendered useless. I thought maybe that one hose was defective, so I threw it away and connected the second hose. In about the same amount of time, the second hose started doing the same thing the first hose did. It leaked so badly the hose wouldn’t even fill up enough to spray. And on top of that, I noticed a leak in the middle of the second hose. And I treated both hoses with care. I even had a special ceramic pot for storage each time I finished using them.  

I didn’t save the receipts and I’d paid cash, so I couldn’t return it to CVS to get my money back. So I considered it a loss, and a good lesson in the old saying that if something sounds too good to be true it most likely is. In fact, I never even thought to write this post. I know when I’m screwed and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Then last night I saw a post on social media about The Pocket Hose. The person who posted about it was making a joke. But that post reminded me that I hadn’t left a review about The Pocket Hose yet on Amazon, and I’d been reminding myself to do that so other people wouldn’t get taken in the same way I’d been taken in by this gimmick. So I went to Amazon, checked out other reviews and saw that many people had had similar negative experiences, and I left my review.

And this morning I find an e-mail from the makers of The Pocket Hose in my inbox, trying to sell me more of their useless product.

From my inbox:

You are receiving this mailing as a valued customer. To no longer receive any further messages please mail us: P.O Box 600991 San Diego, CA 92160 or Click Here
How could I be a valued customer? I have no association with the makers of  The Pocket Hose whatsoever. I bought mine at a retail outlet and paid cash. They have no record of my buying the defective hoses other than the review I left on Amazon last night. So, my only connection with the makers of The Pocket Hose is my Amazon review.
As a result, that’s the last time I ever leave a product review on Amazon again for anything other than a book. This was my first experience like that with an Amazon review, but I’m not going to take the chance on a second. My in-box is crowded enough already with work, friends, and other spammers. I don’t want spam of any kind, and especially not spam from a company that ripped me off with an inferior product they shouldn’t even be allowed to sell…because I left an Amazon review of the product. I could send a complaint to Amazon, but I don’t want to waste my time. I get enough hits on this blog to at least warn a few thousand other consumers that the hose is a waste of money and if you leave a review for it on Amazon you’re going to get spammed by them. Buyer beware! 

An Algorithm that Spots Fake Reviews and Exposes Sockpuppets

When I read about an algorithm that can now expose fake online reviews of any kind and expose sockpuppets, I found myself re-reading the article more than once. Evidently, someone’s invented new technology that will not only sort out fake reviews from real reviews, it can also expose sockpuppets and those sockpuppet names will turn hot pink all over the Internet so everyone knows they are socks. The fakes will be linked to their real identities forever. And, even more interesting, the blogs and web sites and social media of these sockpuppets and fake identities will also turn hot pink so everyone knows who they are.

Of course if you don’t use sockpuppets and fake identities online you have nothing to worry about. In fact, this new technology might turn out to be very entertaining. I can’t even imagine how the Internet will look if all sockpuppets and fake identities turned hot pink. Since I’ve never used a sockpuppet in my life, I’m not worried about it. I have posted anonymous comments at times for various reasons. I encourage anonymous comments here on this blog. And I do believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe that it’s human nature to take advantage of a good thing, so to speak, and you can only claim freedom of speech for so long with fake identities. As the old saying goes, “Give her in inch and she’ll take a yard.”

Now, if you believe what I just wrote above I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale at a very reasonable price. No one’s going to turn hot pink any time soon. But it’s not a complete joke. I actually did read an article a couple of months ago about fake reviews, sockpuppets, and a new algorithm, but I haven’t had time to post anything about it. It’s an article written by, Josh Dzieza, a nice looking young guy who writes for a reputable publication from what I can tell. You can never be too sure anymore, so I always check that out first.

In the article Josh gets into the Jeffery Duns kerfuffle that happened not too long ago, when he (Duns) exposed JR Elroy for talking about his (Elroy’s) books on social media with fake identities.

  “This is RJ Ellory writing about his own book. And he has done this for them all, and yes, I’m proving it in the next few minutes,” Duns tweeted, before exposing Ellory’s pseudonyms.

Even though book reviews seem to get a lot of attention with regard to this topic, Josh isn’t just talking about book reviews. The article gets into all kinds of online corruption…it is what it is…and he mentions other web sites as well as Amazon. Although Amazon is probably the worst of the worst when it comes to reviews that NO ONE can believe…or should believe…it’s not just Amazon. (As a side note, I’ve almost decided that I’m not leaving any reviews on Amazon any longer. I’m not completely sure yet, but I’ve been holding off writing two reviews because I just can’t stand doing it anymore. It feels like a waste of time at this point. If I’m leaving honest reviews for books that I’ve read, it bothers me to know that those reviews that I took time to write are going to be up against fakes. I’ll post more about this in the future. I’m honestly still not sure how I feel yet and I might change my mind.)

But human eyes can go only so far. Fake reviews are ubiquitous on any site that lets users create anonymous accounts, such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp; the tech research company Gartner projects that by 2014, between 10 percent and 15 percent of social-media reviews will be fake.

That’s interesting in itself, mainly to see that things like fake identities and sockpuppets are actually being studied and examined by people who seem to be taking it seriously. I’ve read more than a few blog posts since this past summer where some like Joe Konrath don’t seem to think it is serious. I’ve seen it joked about. And I have to wonder why some of these bloggers and writers don’t seem to think it’s serious. It’s obviously not just a few paranoid people talking, especially if companies like Gartner are studying the issue of fakes. We’re talking about major online fraud.

But this was what I found most interesting in Josh’s article:

 Since Duns unmasked Ellory, he has been bombarded with requests to investigate other suspicious accounts; he began looking into one of them, a famous author, and gave up. “There were thousands of reviews. You’d need an algorithm to sort through them.”

Such an algorithm is in the works. Last year Cornell researchers developed a program to detect suspicious hotel reviews on TripAdvisor. The researchers commissioned hundreds of fake hotel reviews using Amazon’s crowdsourcing site, Mechanical Turk, and isolated linguistic differences between genuine reviews and fake ones. They found that among other giveaways, fake reviews use the first-person frequently and pile on effusive adjectives and superlatives.

I would suggest reading Josh’s article in full. The most important thing I took from it wasn’t about whether or not sockpuppets and fake identities are good or bad, or whether or not freedom of speech comes into play. I’m not tying to sound “holier than thou” in this post and I’m not passing judgment on anyone. I’m just curious about one thing: if there is a problem/issue with online reviews, and if there is as much corruption as some claim there is, it sounds to me like there are going to be ways to reveal the fakes in the future and that’s not a chance I’d be willing to take with my name. So if you have done anything like this, you might want to think about the risk you’re taking and clean up your act a little. You just might wind up turning hot pink someday thanks to the same technology that gave the ability to use fake identities and sockpuppets in the first place.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" Reviews…E.L. James

I hate to keep posting about FSoG, but love it or hate it, it’s fascinating to watch how popular it has become. I’ve done a lot of posts and I liked it, but I’m not going to link right now. This post is more about books in general.

I saw an article about FSoG just a few minutes ago that wasn’t extremely significant, but I was curious about the kinds or reviews it’s been getting on Amazon since I went there last. At the time, in early March, there were something like 250 reviews. Most of them were positive and the one star reviews were scathing. Also at the time, most people liked it. Those who hated it didn’t hold back.

Since that time, there are now over 5,000 reviews. About 2,300 are five star and about 1,500 are one star. So there are still more people that love/like FSoG than hate it.

The most interesting thing is to see the dynamics, in the sense that readers either seem to love it or hate it. And that alone, to me, is the sign of a book that resonates with people. It’s important to get a strong reaction, one way or the other. And to be able to take it when it comes. I think E.L. James has earned her, so they say, big girl pants.

Book Pirates Leaving Reviews on Amazon? Huh?

I read something interesting about book pirates allegedly leaving reviews and ratings on web sites like amazon. I guess the key word is alleged. I’d like to think that all amazon reviews are at least left by someone who has purchased the book. It’s one thing for book pirates to leave reviews on book pirate web sites. That’s up to them. But there’s something a little creepy…in an Anthony Weiner Internet way…about knowing someone had the balls to download a file for free, and then leave a nasty review about it. That’s kind of like going to dinner at a friend’s house and dissing the food afterward.

There is one author I won’t mention who has been tracking reviews of one person/amazon reviewer in particular. And she’s been finding a pattern of sorts. And it’s a little disturbing. I think if I were a book pirate and if I were leaving reviews on web sites like amazon, I’d think twice about what happened to Anthony Weiner this past month. Nothing on the Internet is private. You may think it is, but there is always someone watching. And sooner or later you’ll slip up.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t make things better for readers like me who pay for their e-books. Now we’re not sure which reviews we can trust and which we can’t.

Check Out ALL Amazon Reviewers’ Reviews Just to Be Sure

I’m always buying books, and my purchases have doubled since I started reading digital books. I hear about the books I buy all over the place, from social networks to literary agent blogs. But I’m also a shopper and I’ve learned to check out all product details, prices, and reviews so I know what I’m buying and there are no surprises.

When it comes to books, I think most authors and publishers get it right with regard to product details. The book descriptions are usually helpful, and for me, besides the cover, that’s the most important part of the shopping experience.

After I check out the publisher/author information, I usually go right to the amazon reviews. In most cases I think readers leave honest, informative reviews on amazon. However, there are times when I’m not sure what to think. I’ll see a negative review that’s only one line, which is a huge red flag for me. I know how people react when they don’t love a book. These reactions are usually far more emotional than when they do love a book and readers are not shy about letting other people know they didn’t enjoy the experience.

But a one line, one star review makes me wonder. Something like this happened to me this weekend. I saw a book being promoted on a social network and decided to check it out to see if I wanted to purchase it. There were two great reviews for the book, and one lone negative review. The negative review consisted of one sentence and the reviewer’s name was one of those way out fake names you come across every now and then on Amazon.

So I decided to check out the reviewer’s other amazon reviews. And sure enough, there were plenty of other reviews. And each of those reviews was a negative one star review, only one or two sentences long, and they were all for erotic romances. This didn’t make sense either. Most people who read erotic romances are usually extremely discreet and don’t leave any reviews at all. Or they are extremely passionate and leave reviews all over the place. For some, it’s a passionate hobby. They love romance and erotic romance so much they can’t wait to talk about it in a review. And their reviews are usually balanced. And there are always far more positive reviews than negative reviews. This makes sense; no one loves every book and no one ever will.

But what about those who only leave negative reviews? Of course it’s possible that there are readers who only leave negative reviews on amazon for personal reasons. I guess anything is possible. However, as a shopper, when I’m looking for information about a book, I find it hard to take someone like this seriously.

After I checked out the amazon reviews for this particular book I was thinking about buying, I went to and checked out their reviews for the book. There were over 100 wonderful reviews and a few so-so reviews. But nothing that would have turned me away from buying the book.

This has happened to me before while I’ve been shopping for books. I’ve come across amazon reviewers…always with way out contrived names…who leave negative reviews for erotic romances and never leave one single positive review. Again, this makes no sense, and if it doesn’t make sense I find it hard to take the reviewer seriously. Common sense dictates that if someone only reads erotic romance, there will be more books they love than hate. And the more critical reviews will usually be far longer than the negative reviews.

But if a reviewer only leaves negative reviews all the time, without taking the time to ever leave a positive review, I’m still going to have trouble taking them seriously. I start to wonder if there isn’t a hidden agenda; maybe the reviewer isn’t very stable. I like to keep it positive all the time. Life’s much nicer that way, and I think most people would agree with me.

So never take one amazon review to heart when you’re shopping for a book. Always check out the reviewer’s other reviews and compare them. And then check out the goodreads reviews. As a shopper, I find there’s more consistency over at goodreads, which I depend on when I’m spending my hard earned money making a purchase.