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Jun 16, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sunday, June 16, 2019





Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
William Morrow, June 6 2019
eGalley provided by the publisher, thank you!

My review of other Jean Kwok books:
Girl In Translation
Mambo In Chinatown


A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation
It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

I have been a fangirl of Jean Kwok's writing since her 2010 release of Girl in Translation and I was so eager to read this third novel of hers. The author has quite a unique voice for storytelling and you can tell her words come directly from the heart. This novel is a beautifully complex blend of passion, heartache, prejudice and loss.

The broad theme of this novel is to solve the mystery as Amy is searching for her missing sister but in reality the reader is taken on a journey of the heart of the characters of Amy's family. Sylvie was always on a pedestal once she returned to Amy's family in New York but when Sylvie is compelled to return to the Netherlands to be with her dying grandmother she disappears soon after. Amy is forced to overcome her own insecurities to begin the quest for Sylvie. Traveling to the Netherlands Amy meets the family where Sylvie was raised and discovers so much more about her sister. Amy is confused as to why there is so much animosity towards her sister from the family who were supposed to love her like one of their own. Slowly secrets are unraveled as the narration switches between the characters as well as different time frames so that the veil of the mystery is being slowly lifted for the reader. Nuances of guilt and dishonor come to light as the family is forced to face the reality of what should of been foreseen long ago with Sylvie. The sins of the mother are visited upon the daughter and wounds are laid open to bleed with little hope of healing the wound. The lessons that are given through the character studies are worthy of us all and points us in the right direction of respecting values and embracing flaws. "If you were born a dime, you would never become a quarter."

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a hypnotizing story that will pull you in from the beginning. I especially loved the way the voices changed from each character's point of view, and I can both appreciate and envy Jean Kwok's gift for saying so much within a sentence.

Favorite quotes:
"This was how the mind worked, deceiving us so we could bear the many sorrows of life."
"But he has only taught me that in these modern times, the distinction between hero and villain was often in the eye of the beholder."


I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jun 10, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Monday, June 10, 2019



Layover by David Bell
Berkley Publishing Group, July 2 2019
Mystery & Thrillers
Review Copy via NetGalley


In this high concept psychological suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter, a chance meeting with a woman in an airport sends a man on a pulse-pounding quest for the truth.

Joshua Fields takes the same flights every week for work, his life a series of departures and arrivals, hotels and airports. During yet another layover, he meets Morgan, a beautiful stranger with whom he feels an immediate connection. When it’s time for their respective flights, Morgan kisses Joshua passionately, lamenting that they’ll never see each other again.

As soon as Morgan disappears in the crowd, Joshua is shocked to see her face on a nearby TV. The reason: Morgan is a missing person.

What follows is a whirlwind, fast-paced journey filled with lies, deceit, and secrets as Joshua tries to discover why Morgan has vanished from her own life. Every time he thinks one mystery is solved, another rears its head—and his worst enemy might be his own assumptions about those around him.
Review of Somebody's Daughter by David Bell can be found here.

I am enjoying the suspense/thriller genre over the past few years because they aren't supposed to put me to sleep with facts and minutia, but this one was a little more wordy with a lot less suspense. Maybe that is what "high concept" means in the blurb, I am not sure. This story was about a chance meeting at an airport between a totally boring dude who is completely bored with life in general and meets a mysterious girl with a floppy hat in an airport. He becomes a creeper and stalks her and feels like one good kiss means he should ignore the very important business meeting he is supposed to go to with his boring dad and follow this girl from the bathroom to a different flight. She tells him to get the heck away from her and yet he still continues to follow her around.

If you ignore the fact that none of this would happen in real life then you can try and appreciate the other narrative of the detective in charge of tracking down the same person that is the creepy guy's new love interest. Turns out Morgan is a missing girl possibly responsible for the disappearance of her ex-boss and now the creepy dude doesn't know if she is a good person or a bad person or just really good in bed.

All in all, an interesting plot but personally I find it hard to "care" when the characters themselves do not offer any reason for me to root for them. There was no real reason for me to like boring dude, or the person of interest Morgan, and there was not a whole lot from the detective except to hope she gets to see her kid's soccer match someday. If you are on a layover and need a quick read, this one is great for that. Plenty of concourse and terminals for your pleasure.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Jun 3, 2019

A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

Monday, June 03, 2019

A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund
Bride Ships book #1
Bethany House, June 4 2019
352 pages
Review copy via netgalley, thank you
Previous posts regarding Jody Hedlund here at BBR
Burton Book Review Rating: Unabashedly FIVE STARS


Living in London's poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she's offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister. 
Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship's surgeon, he's in charge of the passengers' welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love. 
With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?



I love Jody Hedlund's writing style and the way she incorporates christian themes with her historical romances. And typically I'm like "moan, groan" if I hear the term Bride Ship because hey, we all know what that story arc is all about, am I right? Luckily I know that anything by this author is touched with gold, so I requested it and downloaded and read it in a day. A Blessedly Long Day. But a wonderful day that was perfectly set for this reluctant bride story regarding the young and humble Mercy Wilkins. She is from a destitute family in London and knows there is literally zero hope of a happy existence when she has to survive on a stale piece of bread for sustenance each day. When she finds out about the ship taking young ladies abroad to help settle British Columbia she knows it is a chance not to be spurned. It is not until later that she finds out the main purpose of all the ladies sailing to an unknown land is so that they can be brides and have babies and Mercy is having none of that!

Mercy is a sweet and endearing character who is tempted by the gorgeous doctor on board the ship - yet there will always be the division of classes of the poor and the upper crust. Turns out the handsome doctor is really Lord Joseph Colville of London and she really should not be catching his eye, but of course her sweet nature is so unlike the haughty taughty ladies that she sets herself apart, rags and all. And yes, A Reluctant Bride follows along the familiar storyline of love conquers all but this novel also brings to light other themes such as we are all God's creatures no matter if you are a Lord or a maid. We are shown the hardships that the poorest of the poor are forced to endure, the heartaches and the burdens that are so easy to turn a blind eye to. And yet Mercy was blessed with the fortitude to be able to do whatever it is she could to be able to make a difference and she did not hesitate to help someone who would definitely not return the favor.

As Mercy was so easy a character to like, so was the good doctor. Lord Colville also portrayed the genteel qualities of the titles he owned, but he also had a good struggle with his own burdens that he works through in the novel. Of course the reader knows that these two are meant for each other, but the obstacles of other people and the social strata of what should be done block their direct paths to true happiness. I do not normally go all through the character analysis in a review but since it is already written here I shall leave it. I look forward to book two which will feature a fellow passenger on the bride ship.

Suffice it to say this novel is going to stay with me for a while, just as Hedlund's other works have. The author brings a passion to all of her stories that blend the context of  history, inspirational themes and pure clean romance that is hard to put down mid way through. Thank you to Bethany House Publisher for supporting this wonderful author and providing her amazing work for us to devour.



Other reviews at this site for Jody's work:
Orphan Train Series:
Searching For You
With You Always
Together Forever

A Noble Groom
Unending Devotion


I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.