Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Some thoughts on book reviews by Christa Polkinhorn

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:

This is the first post from author Christa Polkinhorn who has been blogging since 2010.. This gave me access to her extensive archives. This post is about book reviews and some very important factors to consider before reviewing a book.

Some thoughts on book reviews by Christa Polkinhorn

I have been reading a lot of book reviews lately, mainly because I’m looking for reviewers for my novel Love of a Stonemason and also because I have been reading a lot of new and independent authors, wrote some reviews myself, and like to get someone else’s opinion.

I came to realize that writing a successful review requires talent and effort just like writing the original novel, story, or poem. As readers we all have likes and dislikes and we often have a gut reaction to a book. We either love it or hate it or we like the beginning and not the end or vice versa. Reviewing a book, however, is not just expressing one’s likes or dislikes but the reviewer needs to approach a work with a certain impartiality and objectiveness, in order to write a fair review.

While reading reviews, I came to realize, this “rule” is not always adhered to. One thing the reviewer shouldn’t do is review apples, if he hates them and loves oranges instead. (Excuse my bastardization of the phrase.) If a reviewer for instance reviews a romance, when he really doesn’t like that genre and loves thrillers instead, he is likely to be unfair. That sounds like a no-brainer, but believe me, I read reviews that did exactly that. Now, there are of course certain elements of good writing that apply to all genres but there are differences, for instance in pace, between a romance and, let’s say, a thriller.

I think the first thing a reviewer needs to ask himself or herself is: What is the intention of the author? What is the book about? And how well did the author fulfill his intention? If the book is a romance, the focus is on relationships and you won’t find a lot of blood and gore as in a thriller. It may proceed at a more leisurely pace and that’s okay for a romance. So if you are disappointed that there is no murder in the second paragraph of a romance, that’s your problem, not the author’s. Okay, I’m exaggerating of course.

Here is an example that may show what I mean. I read a review of a novel that I know well. It was a generally favorable review. The novel was what I would call a romantic psychological thriller (my own term). The main character was a troubled, insecure, young woman, who is the victim of a satanic cult and has severe psychological problems. She is confused about what’s real and what is merely in her imagination. She doesn’t trust herself or anybody else.

One of the reviewers was irritated by the fact that the woman came across as a helpless victim and it irked the reviewer that she didn’t have more backbone. The reviewer obviously likes strong, tough women characters. That’s fine but that’s not what this novel was about. The intent of the author was to show the young woman as extremely vulnerable and confused. In the course of her development, she did grow stronger but it was a long and arduous process.

Another example: A reader wrote a review of my own novel, Love of a Stonemason. The core of the novel is the relationship between a young painter and her boyfriend, a sculptor. The story takes place in three different countries. One of the complaints of the reviewer was that there wasn’t enough description of the different locations. The reviewer didn’t know those countries and didn’t feel he or she knew them after reading the novel. Now, that could be a valid complaint. It’s very important that the reader gets a sense of the environment.

However, what puzzled me was the fact that the very thing the reviewer criticized was the feature all other readers (at least until now) praised. They liked the vivid descriptions and the concrete, sensuous details of the environment, as seen through the eyes of the painter. One reader, who had never been outside of the United States, said she felt she was actually travelling to these places.

I tried to make the scenes as vivid as possible, but again, my intention was NOT to write a travelogue but to give enough information for the reader to get a feeling for the place. Of course, there is a lot more to these countries than is described in my novel. I hope I stirred up some curiosity and if anybody wants to get to know these places better, they can always read a Lonely Planet book or other travel guide or, what’s even better, take a trip there! (Okay, that may be too much of a strain on one’s budget.)

These are some thoughts on reviewing from the point of view of an author. I am not an expert on reviewing and I admire anybody who takes the time to read a book and then tries to write something intelligent about it. I believe there are as many different opinions about a book as there are readers.

©Christ Polkinhorn 2010

About Christa Polkinhorn

Born and raised in Switzerland, I have always had the desire to explore the world outside of my beautiful but tiny country. I traveled in Europe, China, Japan as well as South America. Now, I live and work as writer and translator in southern California. My interest in foreign cultures informs my work and my novels take place in several countries. I published a volume of poetry (The Path of Fire). Now, I write and publish contemporary fiction with a focus on family drama/love stories (The Family Portrait trilogy) and family drama/suspense (The Wine Lover’s Daughter series). Aside from writing and traveling, I am an avid reader and a lover of the arts, dark chocolate, and red wine.

A selection of books by Christa Polkinhorn

One of the reviews for Fire in the Vineyard

A wonderful story about a family of wine producers and merchants. The story comes with interesting characters and complicated family relationships. When things start to go wrong in the vineyard, everybody is a suspect, including family members. The author makes clever use of dialogue as things heat up and suspicions turn nasty. The vivid descriptions of the California wine producing landscape make you want to visit this part of America. Woven into the narrative is the complicated process of producing a bottle of wine. A great read for those who love a glass of wine and even for those who don’t

Read the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Christa on Goodreads:

Connect to Christa

Facebook Author Page:

My thanks to Christa for allowing me access to her archives and I know she would love to have your feedback.. I hope you will head over and explore her wonderful selection of posts. Thanks Sally



22 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Some thoughts on book reviews by Christa Polkinhorn

  1. You hit one of my hot buttons, Christa–people who start a review with “I don’t really read this genre” or “I didn’t read the book”. I actually asked Amazon to review a 1/5 review from someone who only said “didn’t read” but they refused.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I thought this was interesting especially as recently I have found myself writing a lot of reviews of books. I have read and reviewed books that are not of a genre I usually read like romances and westerns but I do believe that I have discovered the good in these books even if the genre isn’t one I would usually go for. I try to be objective when I review.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Excellent share Sal. Christa hit on some greats points, in fact, I wrote a post about reviews with same pointers. It’s so painful to receive a thoughtless review of low stars for ridiculous reasons, like they don’t like the genre. WELL DON’T READ IT! And certainly, don’t review it! I’ve seen some doozies around as I always like to read reviews. I’ve seen 1 star because they weren’t satisfied with Amazon’s service. Ignorance is bliss I guess. And yes, I do love those reviews where they’re all 4 and 5 and one crappy review totally unrelated to the story. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I take reviews with a grain of salt. Of course, more reviews give one a better picture. We also learn to trust the opinions of individual reviewers. There have been plenty of times when I have disagreed with a review (both good or bad) of a particular movie, restaurant, book, etc… Thank you, Christa, for your insightful words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know Annabelle. I can’t help laugh at those, though it’s really not funny. I understand the frustration of someone dissatisfied with a service by Amazon. I hope though that other readers know that the review has nothing to do with the book itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Music, Numerology, Vitamin C, Guest Posts and funnies. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.