Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip — 352 pgs

Shanghai 1920s. After a young girl is taken from an orphanage to train as a spy within a secret Chinese gang, she finds a cover identity as a beautiful songstress at a popular nightclub. Winning over the attentions of Master Lung, the man she is hired to assassinate, Camilla lives a life of luxury and danger. But when two other “skeleton women” come onto the scene, Camilla’s job becomes even harder. The first is Miss Shadow, a remarkably talented magician who seems to want to steal the limelight from Camilla and her patron, Master Lung. The other is Rainbow Chang, the androgynous queen of the gossip column who has the potential to make or break Camilla’s singing career. As Camilla fights for advancement in her craft and for the secrets that Master Lung has been hiding, her real boss, Master Wang, is getting impatient and wants Camilla to destroy Lung and take over his empire immediately. But what Camilla doesn’t count on is falling in love with two very different men, both tied to Lung in unbreakable bonds. As the young skeleton woman arranges her life to be stealthy at times and ostentatious at others, she unwittingly sets off a chain of events that puts everyone in danger, not only Lung and his men, but the other skeleton women who have befriended her.

I have to admit that I started off hating this book. From the first chapter, I had to hear all about how beautiful Camilla and her enviable twenty-one inch waist was over and over again. This, unfortunately, was a long string that threaded through the book, never letting up. Yes, Camilla, I get it, you are beautiful and men desire you while women wish they could be you. It was at times more than a little disgruntling. The story was also very repetitive, with Chinese proverbs thrown in for good measure, some appearing two or three times.

The book started off slow and I was really unhappy to have to wade through the whole thing, but the action started to pick up midway through and the story became a little more inveigling. I thought the angle of spy vs. spy was a little overdone, but I was slowly becoming invested in it. It wasn’t a great read but it did leave me wondering what would eventually happen to Camilla. Unfortunately, there were other problems with the book that could not be ignored.

First of all, there was a lot of thinly veiled erotica in this book, and it didn’t sit well with me. If I had to read one more passage about “his stone-like member entering my pleasure gate,” I thought I was going to have to put the book down. The author also chose to give Camilla the gift of contortionism, so this added a lot of raunchiness to the sexual scenes as well. I am afraid that I am just not the right person to read this type of book and become titillated. There were many sexual scenes in the book and I felt that if they indeed had to be there, they should have been cut by at least half.

Another problematic aspect is that is seemed to lose direction towards the second half. The plot turned into something a bit unbelievable, and the denouement was rather easily achieved and predictable. While I found the book to be enjoyable in small doses, I couldn’t get over the obvious inconsistencies, like the Chinese men talking like American gangsters, or the impossible and unrealistic love triangle. I felt that the other “skeleton women” didn’t get much page space, and I really wanted to hear more of their stories, rather than the self-flattering Camilla’s.

I can’t say this was a favorite read for me by any stretch, but it did enliven me for a few pages here and there, and some of the more shadowed plot elements did capture my attention. I think I started off offended by the obvious egotism of the main character, whose endless cogitation of her own beauty and her unfeeling destruction of everyone around her bored me and made me equally underwhelmed. Not a favorite by any means.

Author Photo About the Author

Kensington author Mingmei Yip believes that one should, besides being entertained, also get something out of reading a novel. Her new novel, Skeleton Women, is about survival, letting go, and finding love and compassion.

Her debut novel, Peach Blossom Pavilion, is the story about the last Chinese Geisha and also that of courage and the determination to succeed and attain happiness. Her second novel, Petals from the Sky, a poignant Buddhist love story, is about wisdom, compassion, when to persist and when to let go. Her third novel, Song of the Silk Road, is an adventure love story between an older woman and a younger man with a three million award on China's famous, dangerous route.

Visit Mingmei at www.mingmeiyip.com to learn about her books, music, paintings and calligraphy. You can also connect with Mingmei on Facebook and Twitter.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, September 4th:Life in Review
Wednesday, September 5th:Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, September 6th:Unabridged Chick
Monday, September 10th:Twisting the Lens
Wednesday, September 12th:Broken Teepee
Thursday, September 13th:Bookish Whimsy
Monday, September 17th:The Written World
Tuesday, September 18th:Between the Covers
Wednesday, September 19th:Man of La Book
Thursday, September 20th:Chew and Digest Books
Friday, September 21st:Simply Stacie
Monday, September 24th:Sweet Southern Home
Tuesday, September 25th:Savvy Verse and Wit
Wednesday, September 26th:Fiction Addict
Thursday, September 27th:Drey’s Library

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


Ana S. said...

Oh my gosh, I'm laughing SO hard at the "pleasure gate" line :P I don't mind sex in books at all, but I do mind the way it's written, and this is just... no.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'm glad I skipped this one :( Thanks so much for the honest review!!
On a happier note, you won my copy of So L.A. :), but I need your address to send it to you. Please email me epkwrsmith@comcast.net :)

Beth F said...

Ummmm, I think I'll pass.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Stone-like member entering my pleasure gate? Yuck!

Jennifer | Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I don't think this one would be for me. Thanks for the great review!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Ah, what a shame this didn't work out. It sounds like an interesting premise, if not for the setting alone of 1920s Shanghai, but it seems like it missed the mark, not to mention certain descriptions for specific "moments." You shared a very fair review with excellent examples, Heather!

bermudaonion said...

I give you a lot of credit for sticking with this one - I don't think it's for me.

Suko said...

Thank you for your honest and well-written review. This doesn't sound like my cup of tea, either.

Harvee said...

I don't think the author wanted her to be a sympathetic character, but drew her as this kind of woman would be - an egotistical spy and skeleton woman. Appreciated reading your honest reactions!

ImageNations said...

The outline reminds me of the movie Thomas Crown Affair featuring Pierce Brosnan.

The editor didn't do a thorough work. Besides, perhaps they thought they could use the usual sex scenes to attract readers.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Darn, I'm sorry to see that this book wasn't quite your cup of tea, but thanks for your honest review and for being on the tour.

Lisa said...

Sorry to hear you didn't like this one but boy am I glad I passed on it since I usually agree with you about books!

Jules said...

I've read two of the authors other books and really enjoyed them, especially some of the cultural aspects they had. While one in particular had some, er odd erotica in it, it wasn't overly horrible. This book seems to take a step away from her other books and doesn't seem nearly as good or appealing. Even the summery seems to take a step back from her usual work. Shame it didn't work for you, not sure if I'll read this one.

Jenny said...

Eek!! There is another book by this author I have been wanting to read for a while, but now I'm not so sure. That erotica-like quote you included would have annoyed me!! LOL

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