Saturday, 30 September 2017

Sharing their views on reviews: Sonja Anderson and Tonia Parronchi

Last week, Stephanie Parker McKean told us all what she had learnt from the reviews she has received on her books. Continuing with the same theme, Sonja Anderson and Tonia Parronchi have also shared with us some of the great and useful feedback they've received. Here are their comments!

Sonja Anderson
Sonja Anderson
"One of the things I appreciate the most about book reviewers is that sometimes they make a comparison to other books or authors that I would never dare to make myself! When the reviewer below compared my book, Sophie’s Quest, to classics like Wind in the Willows and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it completely made my day!
The reviewer said,
It contains elements of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Talking animals with anthropomorphic ways are central as in Wind in Willows and the Christian faith is central (though more obviously so) as in Lion Witch and Wardrobe. It’s hard to compete with CS Lewis and Kenneth Graham. Nonetheless I give it a good four stars for the writer does well.
A blogger also once compared my writing to that of the wonderful children's author, Kate DiCamillo! It makes me feel proud of my work, even if it will probably never be considered a classic in the same way as those illustrious authors’ books for children.
The sequel to Sophie's Quest

Importantly, these types of comparisons by reviewers can also really help readers figure out if the book is written in a style and about characters that they will likely care about. I’m so grateful when a reader takes the time to write such a thoughtful review." 
Sonja against the backdrop of Seattle harbour, her home

Such comparisons can also be very inspiring when writing sequels or new stories, so yes, very helpful and constructive for the author and the reader.

However, although it often seems as if Amazon and Goodreads reviews are the only ones worth having, there are other types of review that are just as valuable to the author, as Tonia Parronchi points out.
Tonia Parronchi:

"Reviews come to me in different ways, not only on Amazon but also as e-mails from my web site. These tend to be more personal, with a reader reaching out to the writer because something really resonated with them. 

One man e-mailed me after reading my memoir about sailing adventures, "A Whisper on the Mediterranean", to say he had bought my book because he was learning to sail and reading everything he could on the subject. He had thought my book would be more technical but in the end reading about our real life adventures inspired him even more to continue with his dream. Another man liked the recipes best and was getting his wife to try them out at home!

At times a reader's comments make me realise how I could have improved my work. For example, this review made me realise that a map would have been a great idea. I wish I'd thought of that!
"A very well written book about sailing the Med with the couple's one year old child aboard....The author does an excellent job of painting a picture of each island and town they visit. My only criticism would be that the book doesn't include a map showing the paths they took" 

Tonia and Guido on Whisper
It is of course always a relief when the reader is kind about a book. I am very lucky because most of my reviews have been positive but of course you cannot always please everyone. One reader gave me a 3 star rating for my novel "The Song of the Cypress". 
"The descriptions of Tuscany in this book are well-done, and part of the story-line is okay, but that's the only reason I gave this book three stars. The whole deal with the cypress tree and the old woman is just too new-age for me. In fact, it's just odd... I could hardly wait to finish it and just get the whole weird thing over with. Sorry, Ms. Parronchi. I really did want to like this book."

Fortunately it is the only 3 star review I have had, but it makes me smile a bit. The reader made herself read and finish the book and felt quite fed up about it. Maybe she could have just left it unfinished! However the majority of readers have had a different reaction and have felt a sense of place, feeling Tuscany come alive for them. 

Tonia's Tuscany

One review that I treasure was from an Italian reader. (I'll translate it for you)
" Compliments on your lovely, poetic book. I liked the descriptions of Tuscan life, the people and nature that I recognise because I live here too. I was pleased to read a book about Tuscany where the people and place are described with love and respect."
I loved the fact that my treatment of Italy was seen as being true, respectful and caring. It seems this is not always so. But if my words can inspire a reader to visit Italy, to explore my beautiful Tuscan valley or take a sailing holiday to the exquisite Italian islands, then I have done my job well.

That said, I am extremely grateful for every reader who takes the time to comment on what they have read. Thank you all!"

Many thanks to Sonja and Tonia for sharing their review experiences with us. Reviews of more than a few sentences, both critical and positive, can leave the author with some points to consider for their future writing and they can assist other readers in deciding whether a book will appeal to them! Next week, Janet Purcell and Val Poore will give their response to both verbal and written reviews of a different sort.


Vallypee said...

We always learn something, even if it's a small tip. Encouragement is everything!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic to be compared with Wind in the Willows, Sonia. I loved that book as a child.

Anonymous said...

What great reviews to preview! Interesting to see what reviews authors Sonja Anderson and Tonia Parronchi felt helped them most, or lifted them most. They have both written outstanding books and deserve great reviews! (Steph)

Sonja Anderson said...

I loved hearing your thoughts on the one negative review, Tonia! It's interesting that the reader chose to finish the book instead of just putting it down--there must have been something that kept drawing her in! I've had two negative reviews--one for the world to see, on Amazon, and one that came as the result of a contest entry. One thought the book was too old and wordy for a preschooler, and the other thought it was too young for a middle-SCHOOLER! They were both right! Unfortunately, neither reader understood correctly what is appropriate for a middle-GRADE book, which is for kids, ages 8-12. I guess we have to take the good with the ill-considered! From Sonja