Cole Riann's Reviews > Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover by Robbie Michaels
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Aug 30, 12

bookshelves: armchair-reviews, m-m-ya-or-coming-of-age-tale, m-m, m-m-contemporary, m-m-abuse-physical-sexual
Read from August 25 to 26, 2012

Review posted at The Armchair Reader.

1.5 stars

I had high hopes for this book, but ultimately I didn't like it for a variety of reasons, mostly because it needed a lot more work before it was ready to be presented to readers. If it weren't for the fact that I accepted this for review, I probably would have stopped reading it.

Mark is decidedly in the closet. He doesn't really have any friends and is a self-proclaimed math nerd. He meets Bill for the first time when they're forced to unload a truck full of candy bars at the high school over a Saturday. He's known of Bill forever -- they live in a tiny town and Bill is a hottest and most popular guy in school. Bill has never talked to him though, as casually and like friends as on that day. Afterwards, they meet again as the last people leaving the school just as a snow storm hits, leaving Bill stranded with Mark's family for several days. There, Mark starts to question if Bill is really what he assumed he was and if he's gay like himself. The two grow into lovers, but outward best friends, as they and Mark's family take up several public causes against bullying and abuse.

What I first noticed that gave me pause was the rather strained dialogue. The way Mark (as well as the other young people) speak doesn't sound like a high school student. The words were off and while I noticed that the syntax and cadence of Mark's speech and narration was at times made to seem quite young, the words and phrases he uses are at odds with how I remember and expect teenagers to sound (like "my peers", for one example of many).

Perhaps what bothered me the most was that the book is really preachy. Mark and his family continually take up cause after cause, which is fine and they mean well. In fact, the message of the book, the golden rule, is fine and well. I found it difficult to read the same pithy sentiments over and over though, often the exact same quotes. Issues are often explained down to every detail (what is wrong with bullying, etc.) and with melodramatic flair that made it all over the top. A crucial point in the story is a scene where Bill confronts others about bullying and what followed was a quite unrealistic, shame on you speech. It mostly made me feel like rolling my eyes because it seemed a bit callous to treat such really serious issues as if the world just needed a talking to and everyone would go on their merry way, a whole culture changed. Despite the fact that I couldn't reconcile the realism brought to the story by the real bullying and abuse and then the unrealistic treatment of it, iI was sad that a nugget of a great story was presented and then not explored.

The characters fell flat to me for a few reasons. Mark didn't act like a consistent teenager. Bill faces some extremely terrible issues that are dropped halfway through the story without any real lasting affect on his character. The way Mark's parents go about their crusade fundamentally bothered me. Both Bill and Mark often say to jocks who make comments about "faggots" seeing them in the shower that they should be proud they're "hot enough to get attention from women and men". I just kept thinking… what?

I kept wondering if I was taking this book completely different than how it was intended because I just didn't get it. I couldn't decide if all these were deliberate choices by the author. On the one hand, I could perhaps see where some of it is satirical, but that didn't completely jibe. Either way, the book needed more work and more editing in my opinion -- not only for content but also to deal with some sentence problems. Some of the information that is presented over and over (several times an event or scene is told from beginning to end in the retelling to other characters, and without altering or adding new information which would give the retelling purpose) should have been taken out.

Like I said earlier, there's a nugget of a good story in here, it just needed a lot more coaxing out before this was really ready for publishing. I probably won't be carrying on with the series, and I can't recommend this book to readers. I can see where other readers will like this, so please, by all means read other reviews and decide for yourself. This is solely my opinion and my reaction to the book.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 51) (51 new)


message 1: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Both Bill and Mark often say to jocks who make comments about "faggots" seeing them in the shower that they should be proud they're "hot enough to get attention from women and men".

O.O

How'd that work out for them?


message 2: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann LOL, the jocks either stay quiet or really seem to think about it, lol. I just didn't get it, I didn't at ALL.


message 3: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Cole wrote: "LOL, the jocks either stay quiet or really seem to think about it, lol. I just didn't get it, I didn't at ALL."

Must be nice living in a perfect world...

But the comment itself doesn't make sense. It's almost like saying, "You should be proud of being objectified," which is probably not the message they should be shooting for.


message 4: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann Yeah, that's how I felt. It felt wrong on several levels. Like, you're not addressing the real problem. I felt that way about his whole speech that I mentioned. And the way they all deal with several problems throughout the book, actually. I didn't even mention how they intervene in some family abuse issues (the whole family does, not just the kids). But I just kept thinking how unreal it all seemed.

I'd love to read some other reviews, but I haven't found any yet.


message 5: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Cole wrote: "I'd love to read some other reviews, but I haven't found any yet."

Guess no one else is brave enough to get through it. :-)


message 6: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann LOL. I think maybe people just don't want to review it. I certainly haven't seen any ratings as low as mine, and even one 5 star.

I hate giving one star ratings, but... that's how I felt. It was almost 2 stars most of the book, but it just became too much for me, lol.


message 7: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Cole wrote: "I hate giving one star ratings, but... that's how I felt. It wa..."

I'm not shy of giving out low ratings to books that I didn't like, but I try to avoid the necessity by studying other reviews before I risk buying a book. I've gotten to the point where I just ignore the average Goodreads ratings and focus on what my GR friends have rated a book, because that's much more reliable. So I appreciate you taking one for the team in this instance. ;-)


message 8: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann Yeah, that I understand. I do the same when I'm buying a book. But then since I get review copies of books and review quite a book, I feel like I should use that to take a chance on new authors that I might not have spent my money on until I was sure.

Plus, if I accept a book for review, I have to finish it. Sometimes I get book happy and skip from book to book when I'm not forced to finish, and if it isn't awesome, I often don't come back to it.


message 9: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Cole wrote: "Sometimes I get book happy and skip from book to book when I'm not forced to finish, and if it isn't awesome, I often don't come back to it."

I wish I could do this, but I have a compulsive need to finish books I start. It's an OCD thing. Sometimes I'll DNF if a book is just too bad or boring to endure any longer (or if it's a library book, and I don't have to feel guilty for wasting money on a book I don't finish), but that's pretty rare.


message 10: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann You're lucky! I swear you are. If you ever doubt it, just take a look at my not-yet-finished shelf and see all the books that I've put down for some reason and never come back to. What is sad is that at least half of them are truly great books, I just lost interest because I had to stop to review a book, or something else, and could never make myself go back. Every now and then I'll start one over, but the list just seems to grow ;)


message 11: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Cole wrote: "You're lucky! I swear you are."

It's not a gift, it's a curse! My last thought before I die will be, "Think of all I could have accomplished with my life if I had not forced myself to finish so many mediocre books."


message 12: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann LOL, in that case... ;)


message 13: by Hannah (new)

Hannah ...Exactly. In all that time you've saved, you can now conquer the world.


message 14: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann LOL, by reading ;) Otherwise I'd have to get off my ass...


message 15: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Cole wrote: "LOL, by reading ;) Otherwise I'd have to get off my ass..."

Psht. Who wants to rule the world, anyway? Too much work. No time to read.


message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Hmm. The "Robbie Michaels" name has me wondering if it's an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the late Bobby Michaels... I've seen some really obvious knockoffs of some other m/m romance authors over on ARe.


message 17: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann Well, who knows? I might have thought of that myself if the type of stories this author writes were anything like Bobby Michaels' were. But you never know. If so, that would be really sad.


message 18: by Chris (new)

Chris Definitely!

Here are some blatant examples:
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/prod... (obviously based off Stephani Hecht)
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/prod... (obviously based off Ava March)


message 19: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann Wow that Ava March one even sounds like one of her books, title and all!


message 20: by Chris (new)

Chris I just grabbed the first "Hecht" one that came up, but there are titles about vampires etc, that sound more like Stephani Hecht.


message 21: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Wow, look at all the typos in that "Ana Marchell" excerpt! That is bad!


message 22: by Chris (new)

Chris Deja wrote: "Wow, look at all the typos in that "Ana Marchell" excerpt! That is bad!"

So transparently just cranking crap out for $$$.


message 23: by Val (new)

Val Kovalin Crap is the word. From the excerpt:

Sir! Master Jack! I implore you!" burst from the lawyer, and he sprang up, moving excitedly away, his hands twitching, and his face haggard.

Talk about overwrought!


message 24: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann Yeah and you notice how the self published short stories are always soooo expensive there. Like, a 4k word short for 2.99. It's NUTS!!


message 25: by Chris (new)

Chris I feel overwrought just reading that bit!


message 26: by Val (new)

Val Kovalin Me, too. I need to break out the smelling salts!


message 27: by Chris (new)

Chris Cole wrote: "Yeah and you notice how the self published short stories are always soooo expensive there. Like, a 4k word short for 2.99. It's NUTS!!"

The authors, erm, "publishers" set that price and 2.99 seems to be their magic price point.

But! They are rich sources for Misadventures fodder. Strangely, even months after the books are released, I'm usually the first person entering them into Goodreads (so they'll be a bit less ephemeral than on ARe).


message 28: by Val (new)

Val Kovalin Maybe 2.99 is the magic price point because that's the lowest you can price through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing program and still get that 70% royalty at Amazon. And Amazon will be rightfully annoyed if the same book is priced lower through another distributor.


message 29: by Cole (new) - rated it 1 star

Cole Riann Oh really? I didn't know that. Almost all of the ones I saw though that were short shorts for that price were at ARe.


message 30: by Ami (new)

Ami Those book with "similar" names of Stephanie Hecht and Ava March are from 309 East 83rd Publishing, WHICH I found quite an interesting article about it:

http://www.eroticromancepublishers.co...

Hello plagiarism?


message 31: by Chris (new)

Chris Ami wrote: "Those book with "similar" names of Stephanie Hecht and Ava March are from 309 East 83rd Publishing, WHICH I found quite an interesting article about it:

http://www.eroticromancepublishers.co......"


Oh, good catch, Ami! *passes that tidbit along to Ava*


message 32: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei You guys wanna be traumatized? Go to ARE and click on erotica and just scroll down and read the titles in bestsellers. Its hard to choose but Tits for Hire might be my favorite :(


message 33: by Chris (new)

Chris Deja: LOL! I get a lot of mileage out of those titles when I do the Misadventures in Stock Photography:

http://www.stumblingoverchaos.com/arc...

Milking the Bull is pretty bad - read the content warning...


message 34: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Ugh. Then there's this one. Made a new shelf for it called I'd rather die.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15...


message 35: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Chris wrote: "Deja: LOL! I get a lot of mileage out of those titles when I do the Misadventures in Stock Photography:

http://www.stumblingoverchaos.com/arc...

Milking the Bull is pretty bad..."


Chris I love your blog. That is some bad photoshop there at Siren. I always thought MLR had crappy cover art. I never really looked at ARE until now and didn't know this stuff was out there. Don't see it on my friends tbr lists. Except for a joke.


message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris Eeeeek!


message 37: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Chris wrote: "Eeeeek!"

I know right?


message 38: by Chris (new)

Chris Deja wrote: "Chris I love your blog. That is some bad photoshop there at Siren. I always thought MLR had crappy cover art. I never really looked at ARE until now and didn't know this stuff was out there. Don't see it on my friends tbr lists. Except for a joke."

Aw, thank you! :)

Heh, Cole's probably wondering how the hell things spiraled so out of control in his comments...


message 39: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Chris wrote: "Milking the Bull is pretty bad - read the content warning... "

What does that even mean? Do I want to know?


message 40: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei He writes a great review. No exception here. He's somebody you can trust to be honest. I'll stop, lol. I really just had no idea how much crap was out there. Seriously and back to the topic at hand, I would really like to see some good ya gay fiction. like gay harry potter lol.


message 41: by Emma Sea (new)

Emma Sea I would totally read Milking the Bull!


message 42: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Emma Sea wrote: "I would totally read Milking the Bull!"

Your so brave! :)


message 43: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Emma Sea wrote: "I would totally read Milking the Bull!"

Do it!


message 44: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Hannah wrote: "Emma Sea wrote: "I would totally read Milking the Bull!"

Do it!"


Haha I'll look forward to your review.


message 45: by Emma Sea (last edited Aug 30, 2012 07:44PM) (new)

Emma Sea But it's $3 for 3,600 words! If I buy that I'm supporting price gouging.

EDIT: I bet I can find something similar free online.


message 46: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Emma Sea wrote: "But it's $3 for 3,600 words! If I buy that I'm supporting price gouging."

We could make Cole do it, but he won't finish it. :-P


message 47: by Deja (new)

Deja Dei Hannah wrote: "Emma Sea wrote: "But it's $3 for 3,600 words! If I buy that I'm supporting price gouging."

We could make Cole do it, but he won't finish it. :-P"


In this case I can't blame him ;)


message 48: by Chris (new)

Chris Go, Emma! :D


message 49: by Emma Sea (new)

Emma Sea wow, so who knew there would be so many results for "free fiction 'forced ejaculation' electric gay"? Not me!


message 50: by Chris (new)

Chris O.O


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