Reviewing: The Tiny Owl Guide to Hospitality [Amended]

The Tiny Owl Guide to Hospitality: How to Make Entertaining Simple and Stress Free” authored by Nina Nelson and Dani Arab

51tgn7ksurl-_sx311_bo1204203200_For many reasons, I am republishing an amended form of this review.

In the effort to be wholly transparent, this version of the amended review is not the same as the amended review now featured on Amazon and Goodreads. It is much more in depth and includes a few addresses of certain points and changes I made to the review, provided in a non-review capacity for further clarity.

This amended variant is being republished because of an encounter that I had on Amazon with the Co-Author; Dani Arab replied to my original review on Amazon under the username “Dusti”, and further research later showed that is was indeed the same individual as the Co-Author of the book… Amazon staff has since removed their comment for being abusive and violating their TOS. Before it was removed, however,this is what they wrote to me:

Way to casually promote your completely unrelated book and your own prowess as a writer in the guise of a book review. I hope it made you feel good about yourself. Since you Southerners know we Northerners just cannot compare when it comes to storytelling, I hope next time you do yourself the favor of Googling someone’s location before buying their book next time (I).

This was never meant to be a paperback book. We intentionally kept it short, and we do believe this best serves our readers. This is an extension of our blog, something our readers specifically asked for. That’s why there are multiple blog links. There is no reason to republish content we’ve written elsewhere. As mentioned above, we’ve remedied the switching authors bit (II)

As for professionalism, since you didn’t bother to finish the book or edit your review headline, you’ll have to forgive me for doubting your ability to comment on anyone’s professionalism here (III). I also noticed you leave consistently poor reviews, so again, your opinion doesn’t hold much water (IV). Finally, based on your little riff on essential oils, something we actively promote on our blogs, I think you’re probably jealous of the success of others (V). I hope in the future you find a more helpful way to spend your time.

I am choosing to  acknowledge and semi-respond to their commentary for the purpose of expanding upon, explaining, or clarifying certain points that were obviously not clear enough in my initial review. Likewise, I believe it is important to clearly expose unprofessional behavior of Authors who choose to commit these actions.

In this amended version, I have included bolded roman numerals separated things by topic throughout both their response and my review; those which appear in the Review are small addresses to the points in their response. To see all points addressed further in a non-review capacity, please scroll to the “Further Notes” section of this entry.

Amended Review Portion

With non-religiously oriented hospitality guides so rare on the market, I expected so much more from this book. Unfortunately it did not and still isn’t delivering any quality content for me; already halfway through it in less than an hour, it has been woefully disappointing thus far in several ways- the majority of which concern just how poorly the book was written to begin with; ultimately the way in which it is written makes it lack authenticity and seem more like a ploy to gain viewership for their blog- as opposed to a novel with any legitimate purpose.

Starting off, the way in which it is written is simplistic in nature. Usually I would consider that a positive as instructional books have a tendency to become dry and too informational after a bit. However, there is a difference between simplicity for ease of understanding and simplicity out of laziness. The authors’ writing falls into the later category for me and the simplicity is ultimately a negative mark against it.

Because of that simplicity, the book lacks any true substance. Subjects are ultimately poorly covered with no real elaboration. Those which could be expounded upon and covered more in depth in order to add sustenance to the book are instead included as tangents with a hyperlink instructing you to go to their blog and read [x blog post]. At the very least they could have shown initiative and provided textual transcripts of the hyperlink contents as opposed to lazily disregarding it as unimportant simply because their blog happens to exist.

With these two points alone, I wonder how the book would measure up when published in paperback form. I suspect not very well… Then again it was not meant to be a paperback book according to the Co-Author who responded to me on Amazon; according to the author it was meant to be supplemental material for their blog. And in that regard, they certainly succeeded and I will grant them that.

However, ultimately I do not believe that is in any way an excuse not to properly flesh out a book that you are selling for monetary profit. As it stands, it reads like a slightly longer variant of “How to Navigate Our Blog” with content which is ultimately is more suitable for a “Blog Year in Review” post instead of a book sold for any price. If they are going to continue selling it for profit, then it should at least be more fleshed out and contain more substance- and as the book cost me $2.99 USD to purchase, it is indeed a book being sold for profit no matter how minuscule that profit is.

The storytelling in general was sub par and disjointed as a whole. I have no idea where the Authors are from, but I am a Southern Woman. We Southerners (I) know the importance of storytelling- but we also know the importance of cohesiveness; that our story line up with the general purpose, easily connected to the point being made, and are illustrative of it. When it is not, the book suffers and the point is lost in the confusion- something very common with this book.

It is also excruciatingly hard to figure out which of the two authors is writing at any given point throughout the book. When they do make the distinction it is poorly and unprofessionally done as well… I know how it can be hard to involve the views of two distinct authors co-writing a piece as I had this same problem with my book, The Sisters Grimmoire (VI). However, I do know for certain that it can be done and so I feel the poor distinction is inexcusable. There were multiple options in order to carry the book across successfully and yet they failed spectacularly, making the book even more fragmented and confusing to read than it already was.

Another problem I had was the lack of sourcing concerning the essential oils (V). Who believes, for instance, that Frankincense is spiritually uplifting? Which study did they get that from? Was it personal experience? If so, then why recommend something that arguably needs a scientific foundation for the claims being made?

To me, it does not matter how often you use them or how well they work in these regards for you. Sourcing something like health advice (and it is indeed health advice regardless of whether or not the Authors wish to acknowledge it as such) is absolutely imperative; if you cannot provide unbiased academic or scientific sourcing to back up your claims concerning any health claims- physical and / or mental- then you should not be including the information.

I am and will forever be a stickler about this especially in terms of Herbal Medicine as there are very real dangers associated with it. And ultimately the science of scent has been well studied at this point, so in my eyes there is no real excuse to omit sourcing when you recommend essential oils for certain moods and behaviors. Nor is there any excuse to omit warnings about safety when you speak of applying them directly to your skin (something which, without the use of a carrier oil, is dangerous).

The formatting is another thing which I want to touch on. It is genuinely some of the poorest formatting that I have seen in a book in a while; the chapters make little sense, there is no flow, stories are not illustrative of the points being made, tangents appear everywhere, it lacks clarity and cohesiveness in all aspects- plus there are grammatical, spelling, and multiple other errors throughout; and so on and so forth.

Now a few errors are fine. The Gods know my books are not perfect in this aspect, either. Even professionally published books will have them and they are ultimately unavoidable to an extent… However, as it stands it seems like it was tossed together in a couple hours and then posted for sale without any editing what-so-ever; while the occasional errors are bound to get through, especially with a self published book, I do fully believe that there is a limit to the number and type of errors which should appear in any given book. I continue to demand better from self published authors on Amazon regardless of the prices of their books, and this is definitely a case where the authors would have done well to edit it a few times before publishing.

In all, it did had some decent tips strewn about the pages. Ultimately, though, I found it lazily and unprofessionally written- and generally not worth the money I paid for it. They would do very well not only to expand on its content (and not be so lazy overall), but re-write it altogether. Indeed, if they had put any real effort into the book in the first place I think that the vast majority of the formatting problems could have at least been overlooked- or may have even potentially solved themselves, especially through expansion on the ideals… But according to the Co-Author, there is apparently “no reason to republish content [they’ve] written elsewhere [on their blog]”.

Further Notes

(I) By “We Southerners know the importance of Storytelling” I am not talking about the authors at all. I am talking about myself and my greater audience here who tends to be mostly from the Southern States within America. This is important to me because, as a Southerner, I ultimately approach all books from the standpoint of the culture I was raised in- that, for me, being one which values storytelling as a cohesifying and moralizing element to drive home (or elaborate on) the point you are making. It has nothing to do with where the Authors may or may not be from themselves.

(II) I genuinely do not know where they mentioned it, but it was not mentioned in their reply to me at least. If they did solve this, then I am legitimately happy to hear it. However, my review of the specific draft that I read is still accurate as it was a problem I saw in that specific version of the book. I cannot speak to other versions of the book, because I have not read those versions. Throwing a fit as if I should have is just absurd.

(III) and (IV) Ultimately these statements are irrelevant, unprofessional, and ridiculous. Really, they are nothing more than  a gross, bullying, and ultimately abusive Ad Hominem tactic; an attempt to both silence and invalidate my opinion of their material. So I’ll let their statements speak for themselves here.

(V) In all, that is an absolutely disgusting devaluation of legitimate critique, regardless of whether or not they found it callous and poorly presented (if they did). I resent the importance of this topic being callously shoved off as me simply being “jealous”.

I do not, and will never, believe that any retort they give could possibly excuse not including even the faintest mention of warnings about safety- let alone not even sourcing the claims made during that portion of the book; as someone who has extensively studied this subject and closely related ones for over 13 years in varying capacities (first as a personal interest, later as someone aspiring to be a registered Holistic Midwife, and lastly as someone aspiring to be a Doula before abandoning the dream altogether)? I have and will continue to have a vested interest in the wellbeing and safety of others when it comes to holistic health- something which ultimately has the potential to very easily injure or even kill others if used incorrectly. And because of that, I will not be silent about the need for clear scientific evidence and sources when making claims about the health and other benefits of Natural Remedies.

If that makes me “just jealous of the success of others” in the eyes of the authors I call out for failing in this area, then fine. It is a small price to pay for demanding accountability and accuracy in a field that is ultimately dangerous. But I can assure my readers that my making a fuss about it does not, in fact, have a thing to do with me being “jealous of the success of others” (namely, them).

(VI) In reality, the point of mentioning the book I co-Authored with Bree NicGarran was for no other reason but to illustrate a point: That it can be done, and I have done it. As a result, if I can manage to do it as a newer author on my first Co-Authored book? I am a little less than forgiving when it comes to others not doing it- especially not when doing it in the manner they did ultimately makes the book confusing, fragmented, and hard to read.

That being said, as stated in my response to Dani / Dusti: Ultimately my book is unrelated to their book; I gain absolutely nothing from plugging a Pagan spell book with the Etiquette and Entertaining communities. I mentioned it not to promote it, but because I write these reviews for my blog first (where people are aware of my own books) and then cross publish them to Amazon and Goodreads after the fact.

Usually I do make a point to remove any explicit mentions of my own book titles, but in the case of the original review I did forget to do that during the cross publishing. The title of my book does not appear in the amended reviews elsewhere- as it should not have in the first place if I had paid the correct amount of attention. This was an error on my part, and one that I take full responsibility for.

Edit: 2016

As of 2016, Goodreads has removed my review for “focusing too much on the behavior of the authors and therefore violating their terms and conditions”. I do admit that the initial amended review was too belittling of the Co-Author’s action, and as a reviewer that was unacceptable of me. I have further amended the review to remove or clarify what I can concerning the words and actions of the Co-Author to whom I spoke, and why / how I think it matters in regards to my review.

As for retaining the assertions that the Authors were both lazy and unprofessional in their writing of this book, I have retained those statements for one reason: I do not believe that is an attack directly on the authors or their character, but an honest review of how the material comes across; it does indeed come across as lazy and unprofessionally written. It is not necessarily a judgement of their characters overall, but it is certainly a judgement of their approach to this specific book and I stand by that.

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The Banner Image for this post was provided by StockSnap; the Banner Image for the main site is my own work.


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