PaperBackSwap Blog


Fiction Review – Searching for Sylvie Lee

July 10th, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Review by Mirah W (mwelday)

I am a big fan of Jean Kwok. I read Mambo in Chinatown in one day and thoroughly enjoyed Girl in Translation. Kwok creates characters who are strong yet vulnerable and makes them relatable to any culture. When I learned of Kwok’s newest release, Searching for Sylvie Lee, I knew I had to add it to my summer reading list. Kwok’s novel was also selected as the Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club selection for June and is a NY Times bestseller so there was a lot of buzz that encouraged me to read it!

Sylvie Lee is the oldest daughter of Chinese immigrants and, from the outside, it looks like she has everything together. She is college educated, leading an accomplished career, beautiful and married to a handsome husband. Her parents are extremely proud of what she has accomplished and her younger sister Amy adores her.  Sylvie spent her early years in the Netherlands with her grandmother and aunt’s family and when her grandmother is ailing, Sylvie returns to the Netherlands to see her grandmother one more time. When Sylvie’s family realizes she has gone missing in the Netherlands, Amy travels there to try to get answers and find Sylvie. In the process of her search, Amy learns a lot about herself and inner strength, but she also learns the secrets of Sylvie’s life and the truth of how she went missing.

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a intricate, poignant story about family secrets and family dynamics that impact every family member in a different way. I wasn’t expecting the range of emotions I experienced while reading this book. I had moments of anger, confusion, joy and sadness; it actually took me a few days to wrap my mind around all of the emotions and process them all. Kwok created a family that was damaged and loving at the same time. Some people hurt each other through their love and others wanted to support each other through love, and isn’t that such an accurate portrayal of real life? People do all kinds of things in the name of love, good and bad.

Kwok’s novel was emotionally deeper than I was expecting. I loved the complexity of the characters and how they were relatable in spite of that complexity. The way that Kwok reveals the story through the various characters’ voices is intelligent and engrossing, yet easy to read. I am giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed it and the themes were deep and emotional. Kwok navigates the waters of family drama with heart and soul. I would highly recommend adding Searching for Sylvie Lee to your summer reading list!

While you’re on PBS, check out my reviews of Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown (review here) and Girl in Translation (review here) on the PaperBackSwap Blog!  I would love to know if you also enjoy Kwok’s novels and your thoughts on any of her books!

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Continental Op

July 8th, 2019

The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Published by Dell in 1967, this pocket paperback bundled about half the pulp magazine long stories that appeared in a collection called The Big Knockover. I re-read these stories in my little free time since I didn’t feel up to reading anything else. The year-end festivities and the end of a semester are exhausting.

Hammett’s hero works in the San Francisco branch of the Continental Detective Agency in the 1920s. To make up for not having a name, he has developed an astute sense of how bad guys think. His core competence is using devious, often violent, methods to get the job done.

This King Business (1928). The Op finds himself in a Balkan country where the idealistic son of a rich guy is bankrolling a revolution for a band of crafty Slavs. Seems that the insurrectionists have promised to make the son a king if the revolution is successful. The rousing climax comes out of an action packed series of events which support the notion that the calculations of criminous types and political types aren’t all that different, a fairly common belief in the 1920s.

The Gatewood Caper (1923). A daughter is kidnapped and the desperate father wants her back mainly because it is a blow to his self-made man ego that somebody has the audacity to extort money out of him. “I’ve never been clubbed into doing anything in my life. And I’m too old to start now.” When the daughter doesn’t return even after the ransom is paid, our cunning Op smells something fishy. The story seethes with vindictive feeling and the setting of the Pacific Northwest – lumbering land – is persuasive.

Dead Yellow Women (1925). Très awkward title in our more enlightened era so we must make allowances for the era’s prejudices if that is our inclination. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Op and a Chinese Tong Boss match wits. In places it feels like a parody of a Yellow Peril story, especially the elaborate polite language of the Tong Boss. The description of the maze-like interior of the criminal mastermind’s mansion is a tour de force. Also, a theme pops up: political idealism is exploited by venal crooks as in This King Business.

Corkscrew (1925). In this unexpected mixture of western and noir, the Op is a fish out of water when he is assigned to clean up remote dusty Corkscrew, Arizona. This ought to remind the shrewd reader of the Hammett’s novel Red Harvest, an exercise in violence and horror that rivals Tarantino. A gunslinger remarks, “A hombre might guess that you was playing the Circle H. A. R. against Bardell’s crew, encouraging each side to eat up the other, and save you the trouble.” The Op replies, “You could be either right or wrong. Do you think that’d be a dumb play?”

$106,000 Blood Money (1927). This presents the sequel to the story The Big Knockover. Like many aftermath stories, it is overall less satisfying than the original. The best part of the story is how the Op neatly solves a complicated problem. Again like Red Harvest, the plot is complicated with vivid characters and motivations. The Op slyly manipulates events to tidy conclusion.

The 1967 Dell paperback has an introduction by Lillian Hellman. It’s interesting but it tells more about her and Dash’s rocky relationship more than the stories. She makes a provocative point about the difficulty of living with somebody who is too stoically proud to complain when they are hurting.

 

 

 

Free Book Friday Winner!

July 7th, 2019

The Winner of the brand-new copy of

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry is:

 

 

Susan R.

 

Congratulations! Your Book will be on the way to you soon!

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Free Book Friday!

July 5th, 2019

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

A ravishing first novel, set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all.New York, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs. Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of The Church of Marvels, their mother?s spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family’s star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her. A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum, sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both. As these strangers’ lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York – a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments, a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless.

ISBN 9780062367563, Paperback

There are currently  29 Members Wishing for this book.

1 lucky member will win a brand-new copy.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member in good standing to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, July 7 , 2019 at 12 noon ET, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

 

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – Edwin of the Iron Shoes

July 1st, 2019

Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Mystery writers as skillful as Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton give Marcia Muller credit for being the pioneer of the female hard-boiled private investigator. Even in Edwin of the Iron Shoes, her first novel released in 1977, Muller deftly narrates a fast-paced story, with concise exposition that might be too telegraphic for readers that like an author who stretches out. The style is taut like a short Simenon thriller, the prose plain and wooden in spots. PI Sharon McCone investigates for the All Souls legal services cooperative in San Francisco. Antique dealer Joan Albritton has been slashed to death. McCone pokes around Joan’s neighborhood which has an assortment of dealers of antiques and junk. Muller effectively captures the edgy mood of McCone staking out the victim’s shop at night. Other plusses: the human interest and local color are interesting for once; it’s a San Francisco that scarcely exists anymore. Readers into old school mysteries or ones who’ve read only the later, longer McCone novels may like this one.

 

 

 

 

Free Book Friday Winner!

June 30th, 2019

The Winner of the Brand New Copy of

The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris

is:

Erika G. (akirerendrag)

Congratulations! Your Book will be on the way to you soon!

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Free Book Friday!

June 28th, 2019

Perious Prophecy by Leanna Renee Hieber

Cairo in the 1860s is a bustling metropolis where people from all walks of life mix and mingle, mostly in complex harmony. When evil ghosts and unquiet spirits stalk the city?s streets, the Guard are summoned?six young men and women of different cultures, backgrounds, and faiths, gifted by their Goddess with great powers. While others of the Guard embrace their duties, their leader, British-born Beatrice, is gripped by doubt. What right has she, a bookish, sheltered, eighteen-year-old, to lead others into battle? Why isn?t dark-eyed, compelling Ibrahim, who is stronger of will than Beatrice, the one in charge? Ghosts maraud through Cairo?s streets, heralding a terrible darkness. Beatrice and her Guard have little time to master their powers; a great battle looms as an ancient prophecy roars toward its final, deadly conclusion.

ISBN 9780765377449, Paperback

1 lucky member will win a brand-new copy.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member in good standing to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 12 noon ET, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

 

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!