Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mini reviews - The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by J. Dicker, Parson's Green by F. Bagley, Goodnight June by S. Jio

None of the following books were sent to me by publishers and none left a lasting impression, so I'm going to just give them quickie reviews.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker is a chunkster at 656 pages and I do believe it could have easily been edited down to a much more reasonable length but I still found it engrossing enough to finish within just a couple days. 

Harry Quebert is a famous novelist whose protégé, Marcus, has himself become a bestselling novelist. The deadline for Marcus's second book is looming and Marcus hasn't written a word, so he goes to visit Harry, hoping for inspiration. While visiting, Marcus becomes involved in a murder investigation. Decades in the past young Nola, the love of Harry's life, disappeared and now her body has been found with evidence that incriminates Harry. Marcus believes Harry is innocent and sets out to solve the mystery.

I found the fact that both writers became fabulously wealthy very difficult to buy into and grew weary of Harry and Nola gushing about their love for each other. But I was captivated enough to ignore the book's flaws, whip through the reading and give it a 4-star rating, if for no other reason than the fact that I dislike mysteries, in general, so I figure if a mystery can hold my attention for over 600 pages, it ought to get an above-average rating. For the most part, the French author's understanding of Americans is pretty impressive, as well. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is an award winner in the author's home country. Recommended, but you'll probably either love it or hate it.

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Parsons Green by Fiona Bagley was this month's selection for my F2F book group. Cricket McLean and her mother, Claudia, have always been able to see ghosts. Claudia is a travel writer and when she decides to spend a summer helping out in a friend's bookstore in Savannah, Georgia, she is not surprised to find that her rental house is haunted. But, at least the ghosts are friendly.

Cricket doesn't want to spend all her time in the bookstore, so she goes out in search of a job and finds a position working as a tour guide in a local mansion called Chartwell House. There, a baby was murdered, the baby's mother found guilty and hanged for her crime. But, was she truly guilty? As Cricket explores the house and its history, she is able to see scenes that lead her to believe that there are dark forces at work and she must solve the mystery to put at least one ghost to rest.

I thought Parsons Green was a pretty good story, apart from the fact that a few too many people believed in or saw ghosts. My biggest problem with it was the common self-published-book problem: Parsons Green is desperately in need of a professional editing job. Had the book been much longer, I probably wouldn't have made it all the way through the reading, but it's short and the story is compelling. Recommended with a warning that the sheer quantity of errors is exhausting.

Goodnight June is the first book I've read by Sarah Jio, although I've been hearing gushy praise of her books for several years.

June is a cut-throat New York banker whose job is to take over small businesses that are struggling and sell off their assets. June moved to New York from Seattle and has not returned home for several years. She has few friends, no romantic prospects, and she works long hours. June is so stressed that as Goodnight June opens, she's in the hospital to get her blood pressure under control.  She's only in her 30's.

When June finds out her Aunt Ruby has died and left June her beloved bookstore, June travels to Seattle intending to simply sell the store and rush back home. But, she meets a handsome restaurateur, finds a set of letters connecting the bookstore and her aunt to Margaret Wise Brown's book, Goodnight Moon, and decides she must stay to save the bookstore. The store is failing and June finds herself in the same position as the business owners whose livelihoods she has heartlessly ripped away.

Goodnight June is fluffy, sentimental, beachy reading. It was the right book for the moment -- I was swept away, at first, and I enjoyed the fact that it was a quick read. But, it's more than a little far-fetched and the many strands had a "way too convenient" aspect that pulled me out of the reading. In spite of the fact that I had trouble buying into the storyline, I finished Goodnight June, so I gave it an average rating. Recommended for a fluff break with a warning that the story is extremely far-fetched.

If you've already read Goodnight June, you might be interested to know that Margaret Wise Brown's New York writing cottage, Cobble Court, is under threat and may be torn down to make space for condominiums.

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  1. Thank you for reviewing my novel, Parsons Green. I agree with your points! I am a writer, not an editor. I made the rookie mistake that many self-publishing first timers make - thinking I can edit myself. I know that the story has merit, I am in the process of having Parsons Green professionally edited, as well as the sequel which I hope to have published early 2015. Thank you again for your fair ( if not slightly painful!) review. We live and learn : )

    1. I'm glad to hear that you're getting your book professionally edited, Fiona. I think the story itself is compelling. The only thing that I found far-fetched about it was that it was too easy for Cricket to convince people that she was seeing ghosts. I would have preferred a bit of skepticism on the part of others. Having said that, I've found people are pretty accepting of ghostly presence in cities that have many older homes so who knows? I might be off-base. Good luck with both books!


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