For My Ears: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A READ WITH JENNA • TODAY SHOW BOOK CLUB PICK 

NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK BY New York Times • Time • Marie Claire • Elle • Buzzfeed • Huffington Post • Good Housekeeping • The Week • Goodreads • New York Post • Publishers Weekly and many more

“This is a true beach read! You can’t put it down!” – Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show Book Club Pick

“Powerful  . . . A twisting tale of love, loss, and dark family secrets.”  — Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

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.

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School is in session, which means I’m spending over two hours a day in the car, commuting and listening to audiobooks. I had heard through the blogosphere that this was a good novel, so I purchased it with my audible credit. What a great book! It’s rare that a novel will hold my attention constantly while I’m driving, but this one did. I loved Jean Kwok’s writing and this story of two sisters, which is part mystery, part story of a Chinese immigrant family. I loved the characters and even though this was a sad story, it was beautiful, too.

This book moves about in time and is aptly told in three voices (with three different narrators) – Sylvie, her sister Amy, and their mother.

Apparently it’s a Today Show bookclub book, too.

Highly recommended!

Carrie Turansky: No Ocean Too Wide

Description

Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans–but was that the truth?

After the tragic loss of their father, the McAlister family is living at the edge of the poorhouse in London in 1908, leaving their mother to scrape by for her three younger children, while oldest daughter, Laura, works on a large estate more than an hour away. When Edna McAlister falls gravely ill and is hospitalized, twins Katie and Garth and eight-year-old Grace are forced into an orphans’ home before Laura is notified about her family’s unfortunate turn of events in London. With hundreds of British children sent on ships to Canada, whether truly orphans or not, Laura knows she must act quickly. But finding her siblings and taking care of her family may cost her everything.

Andrew Fraser, a wealthy young British lawyer and heir to the estate where Laura is in service, discovers that this common practice of finding new homes for penniless children might not be all that it seems. Together Laura and Andrew form an unlikely partnership. Will they arrive in time? Will their friendship blossom into something more?

Inspired by true events, this moving novel follows Laura as she seeks to reunite her family and her siblings who, in their darkest hours, must cling to the words from Isaiah: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God”.

I enjoyed this novel and learned about the movement in England that was similar to America’s “orphan trains”. The novel ends with no full completion of the children’s stories, so I’m sure another novel is coming. The genre is a mash-up of historical fiction, Christian, and romance. Carrie Turansky always writes about believable and likable characters and you can count on her for a “clean read”. I look forward to the sequel!

Thank you for my e-copy via Net Galley!

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Description

Lush and visual, chock-full of delicious recipes, Roselle Lim’s magical debut novel is about food, heritage, and finding family in the most unexpected places.  

At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant. 

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around—she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

PRAISE FOR NATALIE TAN’S BOOK OF LUCK AND FORTUNENatalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is for every reader who likes a side of magic with their foodie fiction. You’ll want to move into the Chinatown neighborhood for the mouth-watering dumplings and the charming, eclectic neighbors. Exquisitely written, Roselle Lim sifts through the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, the freedom in unraveling family secrets, and the power of resilience.”—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go

“Roselle Lim serves up a feast for the senses and the heart with this magical tale of love, loss, and redemption in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Filled with luscious, mouth-watering recipes, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune explores the hidden ties of family, mental illness, and desires lost and found, through the delectably transformative power of food. I had to stop myself from running out to buy juicy roast pork, plump crispy dumplings, and sweet pea sprouts!”—Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghost Bride and The Night Tiger

“A truly delicious page-turner, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a magical feast for the mind, the heart, and the senses. With mouth-watering prose, crystallized characters, and a healthy dash of magic, Lim has created the perfect recipe for a truly delicious page-turner. I devoured this book. Sign me up for seconds!”—Samantha Verant, author of How to Make a French Family

“Vivid and lyrical with a touch of magic. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune explores culture, community, and the complex love between mothers and daughters, leaving your heart full…and your belly hungry. I absolutely loved it.”—Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient

“What a treat! Reminiscent of Joanne Harris’s bestselling novel, ChocolatNatalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is heaped with heart and topped with the sweetest sprinkle of magic, creating a literary and culinary feast. Infused with ancient traditions and tantalizing recipes, Roselle Lim cooks up a mouth-watering tale that’s sure to delight!”—Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List

I really enjoyed this novel about life, family, and love in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It had the “magical realism” feel of Sarah Addison Allen or Alice Hoffman, along with the every day life trials and tribulations of the protagonist. It also included recipes! There are a lot of layers here, with family relationships, neighborhood characters, and romance. It would make a great bookclub discussion, along with Chinese food!

Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Description (via NG)

An instant New York Times bestseller 

“A multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant.” —People
“Simply unputdownable.” —Good Housekeeping
“The perfect book club pick.” —SheReads

Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment WeeklyCosmopolitanWoman’s DayPopSugarHelloGiggles, and Refinery29

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. 

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

Oh – I really loved this lengthy but easy to read book! Reading novels that go over many years and have the characters grow up are some of my favorite reads, and this story of two very different but very connected sisters was a great one. Of course, the youngest is named “Bethie” and that was what my family called me, so it made it extra relatable for me. I had not read Ms. Weiner’s work before, though I know she is very popular. Her writing is solid and descriptive and captures those small moments of life that we all experience. This book is long but worth it. There is some sexual content and abuse that might be disturbing to some readers, but I did not find it graphic and it was integral to the story. This would be a great book club read, and it would be interesting to focus on the theme of women’s roles and how they have and have not changed in the past 50+ years.

Highly recommended!

Thank you to the publishers and Net Galley for my e-copy!

Summer at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild

The very kind Susan Schild sent me an electronic copy of her latest Lakeside Resort novel in order for me to read and review. I just love this series! It centers on a 40-something-year-old woman (Jenny) who is making a fresh start by creating a resort with some property she has inherited. She lives in a trailer there and has two cute dogs and an adorable pet miniature horse. I totally want a mini horse since reading these books!

Here’s the overview:

Ready for more love and adventure after 40?

Forty-three year old Jenny Beckett has just renovated eight rustic guest cabins on beautiful Heron Lake, North Carolina. Brand new to the inn- keeping business, she is struggling to make The Lakeside Resort profitable. Wrangling guests like The Fighting Couple, persnickety attorneys, and the curvy gals from the Fabulous You Fitness Week keep her on her toes. Jenny’s business isn’t her only problem. Her mother and stepfather have just moved in for an extended stay. Startling developments with her possible fiancé, Luke, make Jenny question his commitment to her. An all-gal camping trip in her old Airstream lifts her spirits, but Jenny still has doubts about whether she and Luke can make their love work.

After all the heartache she’s had, can Jenny learn to trust love again and finally find her happily ever after?

This book is sometimes termed “romance” or “women’s fiction” or “clean reading” or even “Christian” – all I can tell you is that it’s a feel-good story that is very relatable if you, like me, found your love when you were older! Plus there’s that cute mini horse!! Lots of every day issues and challenges and an easy flow to the writing make it easy to read. And I always love a happy ending.

Thank you, Ms. Schild, for my copy!! I notice that that place that I no longer link to has kindle copies for only $4.99 right now!

And — You don’t have to read the first in the series to appreciate this one, but do yourself a favor and get it, too!

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

I love Melanie Benjamin’s writing (The Aviator’s Wife, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Girls in the Picture – to name a few). She makes historical characters come alive and her attention to historical is spot on. She also never makes anachronistic slips in her writing. Mistress of the Ritz is based on the real person, Blanche Auzello, and her husband Claude who was the manager of the Ritz during the German occupation of Paris in WWII. Blanche is a vibrant and unforgettable character, as daring as she is brave, even as she hides a secret. Apparently, there is not too much known of the personal lives of the real Claude and Blanche, but Ms. Benjamin’s writing never feels campy or too incredible. Instead she does what she does best — slowly peeling away the layers of character so that by the end of the book we feel we know the person intimately.

This was an interesting and great read.

Thank you for my e-copy to review via Net Galley!

Description

A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II—while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hôtel Ritz in Paris—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

“A compelling portrait of a marriage and a nation at war from within.”—Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

Advance praise for Mistress of the Ritz

“No one writes of the complexities of women’s lives and loves like Melanie Benjamin. In Mistress of the Ritz, Benjamin brings wartime Paris brilliantly to life. . . . Intense, illuminating, and ultimately inspiring!”—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Dorothy

Me again — having read this, I wondered about the real Paris Ritz as I’ve never seen it. Here’s a link to google images of it – oo la la!

Some google images of the Ritz in Paris

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe

This spring I listened to the audiobook of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane via Audible and I loved it! I knew Katherine Howe from her awesome YA novel, Conversion, so I knew I’d enjoy another novel by her. Physick Book is the first in a series about women “witches” and their descendants. It was quite intriguing and well-narrated. And I was thrilled that I could immediately pair it with The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, since that continued the story. That said, I don’t think you need to read one in order to read the other — “Daughters” stands alone as a novel in its own right.

Here’s the overview:

Description

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe returns to the world of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane with a bewitching story of a New England history professor who must race against time to free her family from a curse

Connie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial America—especially women’s home recipes and medicines—and by exposing society’s threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.

When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.

Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decades—and the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most.

Now I’m the type of person who LOVES reading about history and Salem and Katherine Howe has a wealth of information and knowledge, and is a gifted writer, so this was a win for me. I actually had the chance to briefly meet Ms. Howe at BEA several years ago and she was quite gracious and lovely and humble.

Thank you, Net Galley and Henry Holt and Co., for my review copy!

Happy June 25th Pub Day to Ms. Howe!