Natalie Tan

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

Heaven, My Home

Heaven, My Home
Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim- Feature and Review


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.



Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and FortuneNatalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim is a 2019 Berkley publication.

A Whimsical journey of self-discovery, finding one’s niche, and making your dreams come true!

Natalie returns to her Chinatown neighborhood after her mother dies. She hadn’t spoken to her mother in years and her sudden death causes a plethora of old feelings to resurface. Despite the problems she had with her mother, Natalie is filled with regret. She also sees how far the neighborhood has deteriorated since she’s been gone. When a realtor approaches Natalie, trying to convince her to sell her mother’s place, which includes the long -shuttered restaurant her grandmother owned and operated, Natalie balks. She soon discovers that contrary to what she’s been led to believe the restaurant is in working order. Her dream of being a chef could very well come true after all- however it will not be an easy task. With the help and support of her grandmother’s recipes and friends and neighbors, Natalie looks for just the right recipe for success- one that will give back to the community and carry on her grandmother’s legacy.

What a delightful story! This feel-good story adds in just a touch of magic, to go along with family and friends, a sprinkle of light romance, and tons of great food and recipes. I loved the characters, the family secrets, and the character development.

This is a fun story, really cute, with a few moral lessons tossed in, such as never giving up on one’s dreams no matter what adversity must be met and overcome. However, for me the most prominent theme is giving back to the community, paying it forward, and helping others, with the right intentions in your heart, and that’s a something we should do more of!



Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighbourhood.

She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother's) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.

An artist by nature, she considers writing as "painting with words."

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke- Feature and Review


The thrilling follow-up to the award-winning Bluebird, Bluebird: Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is on the hunt for a boy who's gone missing - but it's the boy's family of white supremacists who are his real target
9-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; now he's alone in the darkness of vast Caddo Lake, in a boat whose motor just died. A sudden noise distracts him - and all goes dark.

Darren Matthews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; after the events of his previous investigation, his marriage is in a precarious state of re-building, and his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who's never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she's not above a little maternal blackmail to press her advantage.

An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town where the local economy thrives on nostalgia for ante-bellum Texas - and some of the era's racial attitudes still thrive as well. Levi's disappearance has links to Darren's last case, and to a wealthy businesswoman, the boy's grandmother, who seems more concerned about the fate of her business than that of her grandson.

Darren has to battle centuries-old suspicions and prejudices, as well as threats that have been reignited in the current political climate, as he races to find the boy, and to save himself.

Attica Locke proves that the acclaim and awards for Bluebird, Bluebird were justly deserved, in this thrilling new novel about crimes old and new.



Heaven, My Home (Highway 59 #2)Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke is a 2019 Mulholland publication.

A powerful and deeply effective crime drama!

I have been dying to get my hands on this book since reading ‘Bluebird, Bluebird’. As this second installment opens, we find Darren Matthews working hard to make his marriage work and stabilize his career. But then he is hand-picked to locate a young boy who has disappeared on Caddo Lake. However, this is not the usual Amber Alert situation. Young Levi King is the son of a white supremacist and Matthew’s real target is Levi’s family.

Meanwhile, the explosive knowledge his mother has on Darren could derail everything he’s precariously pieced back together. As the pressure increases, the case takes a stunning turn linking back to Darren’s previous case. In a tense race against time, Darren’s salvation depends on the rescue and return of Levi King.

I can’t put into words how impressive this series is. The atmosphere is heavy and thick, and the suspense is nearly unbearable. At its core this series is a procedural, with a mystery to solve, but the complexities of the novel, and the characters, are so deep and conflicted it seems this series defies the ordinary and mundane label is categorized under.

There is so much diversity, layers of history, especially in the depiction of the Hasinai Caddo Indians, and the incredible landscape to compliment the drama.

There are several deep topics to explore and ponder on, but one that truly stuck out for me was the timely subject of forgiveness and the all too realistic depiction of the political climate in this country, showcasing the troubling results it has wrought.

Locke’s prose and intricate plotting and pitch perfect pacing, rich characterizations, and cultural observations will make this series appealing to a much broader audience, luring in those who don’t typically read crime fiction.

Overall, I think I might have liked this second installment a little better than the first and that’s really saying something. I can’t wait to see the direction Darren Matthews will follow and what paths Attica Locke and Highway 59 will take us down in the future.



Attica Locke is a writer whose first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for an Orange Prize in the UK.

Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was also a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Daisy's Christmas Gift Shop By Hannah Pearl- Feature and Review


Struggling to find the perfect Christmas gift? Step into Romantic Daze
Daisy Kirk is a sucker for a love story, which is why she opened up her gift shop – because there’s nothing that makes Daisy happier than when she’s helped a customer achieve their own ‘happily ever after’ by finding the perfect Christmas gift for their loved one. And she absolutely does not just sell ‘soppy presents and frilly pants’ as her brother’s infuriating best friend, Eli, is so fond of suggesting.
The sad fact is that whilst Daisy is helping others with their love lives, hers is non-existent. But when unusual circumstances take Daisy and Eli on a road trip from London to rural Wales, will she finally get the happily ever after to her own Christmas love story?



Daisy's Christmas Gift ShopDaisy's Christmas Gift Shop by Hannah Pearl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Daisy’s Christmas Gift Shop by Hannah Pearl is a 2019 Choc Lit/Ruby Fiction publication.

Heartwarming Christmas Intrigue!!

Daisy’s special gift shop is the place to go for that intimate and personal gift for the special person in your life. But while Daisy is busy making everyone else’s romantic dreams come true, her own love life is non-existent. To make matters worse, she hasn’t fully gotten over her crush on her brother Ben’s best friend, Eli. However, she and Eli can’t seem to be in the same room together without constantly bickering.

Because Eli and Ben’s work is filled with secrecy and intrigue, they can be a little demeaning to Daisy about her shop. But things take a frightening and sinister turn, when Ben, who is on the spectrum, gets tired of hearing Daisy and Eli argue and runs away.

While searching for Ben they begin to think Ben may be in danger- in more ways than one! Can Eli and Daisy put their differences behind them to rescue Ben?

Holiday novels are plentiful, all full of heartwarming stories and good cheer. But a holiday romance with action and adventure?

Yes, please!!

The author puts a unique spin on holiday romance stories- and that’s a good thing! I enjoyed the wicked banter between Daisy and Eli and the mad cap adventure they embark on. Ben, who apparently suffers from autism or Asperger’s, gets a prominent feature in the book, when he makes a very unusual connection. The plot has a curious mix of offbeat characters, situations, and unconventional love stories, as well as the traditional holiday sentiments. As a result, I found the book to be highly entertaining and one of the most original holiday romance books I’ve read so far this year!

4 stars



Hannah Pearl was born in East London. She is married with two children and now lives in Cambridge.
She has previously worked as a Criminology researcher, as a Development Worker with various charities and even pulled a few pints in her time.
In 2015 she was struck down by Labrynthitis, which left her feeling dizzy and virtually housebound. She has since been diagnosed with ME. Reading has allowed Hannah to escape from the reality of feeling ill. She read upwards of three hundred books during the first year of her illness. When her burgeoning eReader addiction grew to be too expensive, she decided to have a go at writing. In 2017 she won Simon and Schuster’s Books and the City #heatseeker short story competition, in partnership with Heat magazine, for her short story The Last Good Day.
Hannah is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.

Follow Hannah:


Monday, November 11, 2019

MONDAY'S MUSICAL MOMENT- Face It- by Debbie Harry- Feature and Review


DEBBIE HARRY is a musician, actor, activist and the iconic face of New York City cool. As the front-woman of Blondie, she and the band forged a new sound that brought together the worlds of rock, punk, disco, reggae and hip-hop to create some of the most beloved pop songs of all time. As a muse, she collaborated with some of the boldest artists of the past four decades. The scope of Debbie Harry’s impact on our culture has been matched only by her reticence to reveal her rich inner life – until now.
In an arresting mix of visceral, soulful storytelling and stunning visuals that includes never-before-seen photographs, bespoke illustrations and fan art installations, Face It upends the standard music memoir while delivering a truly prismatic portrait. With all the grit, grime, and glory recounted in intimate detail, Face It recreates the downtown scene of 1970s New York City, where Blondie played alongside the Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
Following her path from glorious commercial success to heroin addiction, the near-death of partner Chris Stein, a heart-wrenching bankruptcy, and Blondie’s break-up as a band to her multifaceted acting career in more than thirty films, a stunning solo career and the triumphant return of her band, and her tireless advocacy for the environment and LGBTQ rights, Face It is a cinematic story of a woman who made her own path, and set the standard for a generation of artists who followed in her footsteps – a memoir as dynamic as its subject.



Face ItFace It by Debbie Harry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting, but lackluster memoir

You never know what you are going to get when you start reading a memoir, but it is always hard to write a review for one you feel a little underwhelmed or disappointed with.

So, fans of Debbie Harry, those who will brook no criticism of her, maybe you’ll want to skip this review. I can seem judgmental, more so with a memoir than with a biography written by a third party or a ghost writer.

That’s not really my intent, but I’ve been told I come off sounding that way. Still, these are my personal thoughts and I’m going to be straight up honest about them.

I desperately wanted to like this book. I couldn’t wait for my library to get a copy, so I listened to the audio on Scribd without the benefit of having a digital or print book to complement it- something I rarely do.

At first, I enjoyed listening to Debbie's narration. Being from Texas I don’t get to hear accents like hers too often, and she narrated the book with such an unusual cadence, I was mesmerized by her voice for a while.

But by the second full day of audio, her tone seemed flat and impersonal with little or no emotion or inflection. I really struggled to stay focused on it at times.

As to the format and organization, Debbie gets off to a good start, talking about her childhood, her road to success, and the atmosphere in New York during the seventies, which was bursting with creativity and artistry, but was also a dark, dangerous, terrifying city that was going broke.

Out of this tough environment punk and new wave carved out a fitting niche. Forget corporate rock and bloated songs showcasing guitar and drum solos! As a result, readers will soon learn the one thing Debbie DOESN’T do is gentrification.

Unfortunately, after getting off to such a good start, Debbie occasionally lost her train of thought, and her tight chronological format unraveled, and she started to insert odd little antidotes and wandering off course, playing around with timelines, which is something that rarely works for me with a biography or memoir.

As to my personal views-

I always liked Blondie. The music was catchy with a crossover appeal and I thought Debbie Harry was the perfect front person for the group. I can’t say I was a super fan and up until now I knew very little about Debbie from a personal standpoint. I had heard she had a drug addiction, but other than that I couldn’t have told one other thing about her.

As such, much of what was revealed in her memoir was news to me and I did find her background to be quite interesting. She did reveal one very shocking detail in her life that left me feeling shaken and was the most harrowing moment in the book. (I’m not talking about her alleged encounter with a serial killer- although she does mention that episode in the book)

Excepting that one intensely personal and brave revelation, Debbie remained aloof for the most part. While I realize she plays up her sex appeal, and that is a big part of her stage persona, I was a bit surprised by her strong reliance on her outer appearance, and how, despite believing her music was cutting edge, and that she was standing up to men, and for herself, through her music, she placed a very heavy emphasis on her looks and sex kitten persona rather than on her talent. I was disappointed by that and wish she had relayed a stronger stance against the misogyny in the male dominated and controlled music business. In fact, she went out of her way to avoid that subject, explaining that she just put up with it and got on with what she needed to do- which is a cycle we are desperately trying to break.

I suppose she’s still holding fast to her public image and mystique, and maybe she feels like it is still her bread and butter, so she didn't want to shatter that image.

But, that air of mystery leads me to another qualm about the book. A good memoir gives readers an intimate look at the person and is not just about naming names- which Debbie did a lot of – or an oral history of facts and events.

Unfortunately, Debbie skimmed over some of the things I think people are most interested in knowing. Details!! We want to know about Chris Klein- not just that there was a relationship- but what came between them- what broke them up. Tell us about the drug addiction in a way that perhaps suggests a little regret or remorse- some hint of the agony she must have endured to get clean. None of those intimacies are here and I’m wondering if perhaps Debbie was not really all that interested in giving us a prolonged peek behind the curtain, which leads me to believe that she may have been better off going with an authorized biography instead.

All of that said, Debbie Harry is an icon, and although I didn’t get much of a feel for who she is, deep down, I still love her music and was glad I had the chance to learn a bit more about her history.

Those who are very dedicated fans, or were much more involved in the punk scene, and are far more familiar with the atmosphere of that time and place, may not glean anything new from this memoir, but I’m sure the trip down memory lane will be worth your time.

Although I was a little underwhelmed by the book, and I may have made it sound worse than it really was, I’m still glad I read it. There are plenty of interesting, juicy bits of information, lots of sex and drugs, and it was fun to hear Debbie talk about her hair colors and fashion styles over the years. Her work as an actress was far more accomplished than I realized and I enjoyed hearing about her movies, although I don’t think I’ve seen anything she played in. I think Debbie has lived quite a colorful life and deserves her place in music history and as a pop culture icon.

Cruise on!



Deborah Ann Harry is a Golden Globe-nominated and Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and actress most famous for being the lead singer for the punk rock/new wave band Blondie. She has also had some success as a solo artist, recording five solo albums and has sold more then 7 million records. In the mid 1990s she also performed and recorded as part of the Jazz Passengers. Harry has also engaged in an acting career with over 30 film roles and several television appearances to her credit.

Friday, November 8, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini- Feature and Review

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime."

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.



The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini ( Berliani M. Nugrahani, Translator) is a 2004 Riverhead Books publication.

Earlier this year I read Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, another book, like this one, written back in 2004. It seemed I was the only person in the world who had not read the book, and once I’d finished reading it, I wondered why it had taken me so long to read it. This got me to thinking about all the books that I’d intended to read, but never got around to. So, despite my strong feelings about making reading resolutions, I vowed to read more books ‘the entire world has read but me’. Other than Moloka’I, I have also read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale”, and now- “The Kite Runner”.

The Kite Runner has over 68,000 reviews on Goodreads, so I’m not going to recap the synopsis, nor am I going to break down all the various ways in which this book touched me in one way or another, or analyze all the important messages in the story, as I don’t think I can add anything more to what has already been said.

However, I couldn’t simply leave a rating and felt compelled to add a few personal remarks about my experience with this novel- but I’ll keep it brief.

First of all- why on earth did I wait so long to read this book?

This story is an incredible gut-punching- heart-wrenching, powerful and very thought-provoking family saga.

The juxtaposition between the two boys and the separate paths on which they embark is tragic, but eventually leads to long overdue penance and justice, as well as redemption and forgiveness. This riveting drama is very reflective, and handled with crisp precision, evoking a myriad of emotions. While the story is deeply depressing and so very sad, it is also an uplifting, inspirational story of a personal reckoning and redemption, which is the part of the story I’ll always carry with me.

I’m so very glad I took the time to finally sit down and read this book! Although the book is fifteen years old now, it still has the same profound resonance it did when first published. I’m still hugging my box of tissues!

Amazing storytelling, amazing book- One I will never forget!



Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. His first novel, The Kite Runner, was an international bestseller, published in thirty-eight countries. In 2006 he was named a goodwill envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. He lives in northern California.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY- Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen - Feature and Review



Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?

Journalist Billy Jensen spent fifteen years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common―they didn't have an ending. The killer was still out there.

But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer and author of I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara, Billy became fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops had given up. A plan to solve the murders himself.

You'll ride shotgun as Billy identifies the Halloween Mask Murderer, finds a missing girl in the California Redwoods, and investigates the only other murder in New York City on 9/11. You'll hear intimate details of the hunts for two of the most terrifying serial killers in history: his friend Michelle McNamara's pursuit of the Golden State Killer and his own quest to find the murderer of the Allenstown Four. And Billy gives you the tools―and the rules―to help solve murders yourself.

Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true-crime narrative unlike any you've read before.



Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving MurdersChase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders by Billy Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen is a 2019 Sourcebooks publication.

Gripping and personal journey into true crime reporting and crime solving-

The sheer number of cases that remain unsolved are mind numbing. We often focus on the crimes that make the big headlines, but for every one of those, there are numerous others that never make a blip on the public’s consciousness. Some cases go viral, such as the one where an innocent man is knocked unconscious, then hit by a car, then robbed while he lay in the street. Although the crime was recorded, finding the man who assaulted the victim took a long time, with many dead-end leads, and required much tenacity, patience, and a very sharp eye.

For Billy Jensen helping to solve the lesser known cold cases has become his life’s work. He is still a writer and journalist, but what he writes about is unsolved crimes. He became friends with fellow cold case/true crime advocate, Michelle McNamara, and he helped to complete her book after her untimely death.

In this book, Jensen explains how he became a crime reporter, his personal background, and even exposes his single-minded fixation on solving crimes, helping law enforcement, and bringing some closure to the victim's families, who at this point, just want to know the truth.

His heady exhilaration at having helped law enforcement close the books on a case is what keeps him from losing faith when so many cases hit a brick wall.

One thing that we can all agree on is that despite all the perils of social media, without it, and the advances in DNA and forensics, murderers and rapists like the Golden State Killer, might never have been caught. Jensen outlines the way he uses social media and the internet, in general, to help solve crimes.

It’s a fascinating story, and you have to hand it to the guy. He’s like a dog with a bone when he gets started on a story or case and he doesn’t turn loose of it, even when it looks as if he’s just chasing his own tale. This dedication might also be described as an obsession, though.

One issue I had with the book, and it is the same issue I had with McNamara’, is the layout and organization of the book. The flow is uneven, as Jensen seems unsure of when to insert something poignant or personal, which came off as feeling a little too forced and awkward. The timing is a bit off in that area, but I did enjoy some of the nostalgia from the seventies he spoke of. Adding personal antidotes was something that worked for McNamara, but not so much here, I think.

The other issue I have with the book is with the last portion, which is a DIY tutorial on amateur sleuthing and crime solving.

Because it goes without saying that law enforcement agencies nationwide are overwhelmed, it may have gotten to the point where it now takes a village to help solve crimes. It never hurts to be informed, prepared, aware, and alert. I do not have a problem with people logging onto to social media to study crime, cold cases, or missing persons profiles. Sometimes a citizen’s hyper-awareness could help save a life.

In many ways, I greatly admire Jensen and what he does. Without him, some crimes, and murders would mostly likely have remained unsolved.

That said-

While I read a great deal of true crime, and do follow certain specific cases, I keep my concerns and interest in the proper perspective.

Too many people interfering in official police investigations could backfire spectacularly. While Jensen found the internet and social media to be a huge asset, we all know by now that it is also packed with erroneous and harmful information, which could hinder, instead of help, solve a crime. It could also be very dangerous, opening oneself up to scams or cons or even physical harm. It could lead to false accusations as well, and we know that even a hint of such a thing can ruin a life in an instant.

So, I’m thinking this is a bit of a slippery slope and I’m not entirely comfortable with Jensen encouraging the general public to follow his chosen path. Putting oneself out there, interviewing victim’s families and the heart wrenching, day to day, drudge of following a lead that turned out to be nothing, is an emotional drain that can be mentally draining, and quite damaging… just take a look at the toll it took on Michelle McNamara.

I’m not saying Jensen glorified his work or sugarcoated anything, as the cases he examines are truly horrifying and one gets a glimpse at the cost the author pays, and the sacrifices his family must endure for him to be successful at what he does.

In my humble opinion, climbing into that dark, murky world, and becoming- shall we say- devoted- to the exclusion of all else in life can’t be all that healthy.

Still, I did find this book to be very interesting, and absorbing, overall, sans the DYI bits. Although I don’t necessarily recommend we all jump into the boat along with him, I’m glad Jensen has had success as a reporter, author, and amateur sleuth and hope that as he continues his work, he will at long last solve some of the cases that continue to haunt him.



Billy Jensen

Billy Jensen is a true crime journalist focused squarely on unsolved murders and missing persons. But after 17 years of writing hundreds of stories with no endings, he was fed up--and decided to try and solve the murders himself using radical social media techniques. And it worked. Billy has solved or helped solve ten homicides. Law enforcement agencies now reach out to Billy to help in cases that have them stumped, using him as a "consulting digital detective," or as Men's Journal referred to him: The Facebook Detective.

After his friend Michelle McNamara suddenly passed away in 2016, Billy helped finish her book on the Golden State Killer, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, alongside her researcher Paul Haynes and her husband Patton Oswalt.

He has written crime stories for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Magazine and the Long Island Press, and is one half of the podcast Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad, with former cold case investigator Paul Holes, and one third of The First Degree podcast.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok- Feature and Review


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.



Searching for Sylvie LeeSearching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok is a 2019 William Morrow publication.

A poignant family saga highlighting cultural, gender, and generational divides.

About Sylvie:

Sylvie is a thirty-three-year old woman of Chinese descent, who up until she was nine years old, lived in the Netherlands with her extended family- which included her maternal grandmother, her mother’s cousin, Helena, her husband, Willem Tan, and their son, Lukas. She is the daughter of ‘Ma and Pa’, the sister of Amy, the wife of Jim. She’s vibrant, focused, brilliant and highly successful… And… she’s missing.

Sylvie initially flew to Holland to care for her ailing grandmother. After her grandmother passes away, it was presumed Sylvie had returned to New York, but no one has seen her. Amy is alerted by Lukas that Sylvie has vanished, which sets off alarm bells in Amy’s mind. After checking the usual places, it becomes clear Sylvie never left the Netherlands. So, Amy travels to Holland to search for her, encountering her extended relatives for the first time.

She is immediately struck by their apathy towards Sylvie’s absence, the hostility she senses from Helena, and the mysterious behavior Sylvie exhibited before she disappeared. But her cousin’s blasé attitude is nothing compared to their demand that Amy not seek outside help- such as from the police. As Amy works to uncover the truth about her sister, she discovers a part of Sylvie she never knew existed.

The story is a very taut, suspenseful mystery, but not in the traditional sense. Where is Sylvie? Did she take off deliberately? Why would she do something so out of character?

While this mystery unfolds, at the core of the story is a very complex family drama. ‘Ma’ immigrated to the US, but the adjustment was very hard, leading her to take the Tans up on their kind offer to have Sylvie come live with them. She never intended for Sylvie to stay so long and had no idea how difficult things became for her before she returned home to New York to live with parents again.

Amy also has no idea what Sylvie’s life was like in the nine years she spent in Holland. She loves her sister dearly, but is also a little jealous of her, too. Could Sylvie be a bit envious of Amy, as well?

Besides the exploration of sisterly bonds, the story also addresses the hardships immigrants endure, the racism the family encountered, both in Holland and in New York. These events shaped them as a family unit and as individuals.

Amy’s persistent search for answers unveils layers of sorrow, secrets, resentments, and a host of bitter regrets.

The novel is fast paced, but everything remains shrouded in mystery until the very end, which tempted me to start over and read it again so I could view it from with an insider’s advantage.

The mysteries and revelations emerge slowly, but the atmosphere becomes increasingly puzzling and alarming. Once the mystery is resolved, one is left to reflect upon the characters, their motives, limitations, desires, fears, and the perception of oneself that others may view differently.

While this book is categorized as a mystery, I strongly urge those familiar with the genre not to expect anything like a criminal investigation here. This is the desperate search for a missing person without the help of any official agencies. But, rest assured, the mystery of Sylvie Lee’s disappearance deepens as the story progresses, leaving one feeling on edge with ever growing sense of urgency.

However, for me, the cultural struggles of immigrating to another country, and the absolute poison of racism humming beneath the surface, along with the complex family dynamics, is what I’ll remember most about the journey.

It’s a heart wrenching tale with a valuable lesson tucked inside these pages, one that should give us all something to contemplate. Empathy is evidently a rare strait and one we should all try harder to develop. You never really know what someone is going through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes…



Jean Kwok is the award-winning, New York Times and international bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee, Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in twenty countries and taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world. An instant New York Times bestseller, Searching for Sylvie Lee was selected for the Today Show Book Club and featured in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, CNN, The New York Post, The Washington Post, O Magazine, People, Entertainment Weekly and more. Jean has been chosen for numerous honors, including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award, and the Sunday Times Short Story Award international shortlist. Jean immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard and completed an MFA in fiction at Columbia University. She currently lives in the Netherlands. 

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