A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.

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BEAUTY

In this literary novel, an ambitious but conflicted woman navigates the world of fashion while contending with her destructive attraction to sinister men.

When Amy Wong was still in high school, she lost her virginity to a middle-aged shoe salesman in exchange for a pair of $1,250 boots. The event foretold her career as an emerging designer in New York’s competitive fashion industry as well as a love life filled with older, predatory men. At Parsons, her White classmates mutter about affirmative action while the resident design mogul, Jeff Jones, exoticizes Amy’s Chinese heritage. That doesn’t keep her from sleeping with him, and, in fact, she agrees to marry him shortly after graduation. Everyone assumes she just did it to get ahead, but it isn’t long before she has ceased to be an up-and-coming designer and gets sidelined into being a wife and a mother to Jeff’s difficult child. Or, at least, she hopes he’s Jeff’s: “Maybe Jeff sensed it, somehow, or maybe he fell into his old patterns. He started to look elsewhere. He came home reeking of sex and Coco Mademoiselle. Fashion is a small industry. Everyone knew, which made me feel all the more helpless and ashamed.” Because of a prenup, Amy is forced to find a job after the marriage fails. Forget about making her mark on the industry; now, she just has to find a way to survive in it. Unfortunately for her, continued difficulties with her son, Alex, as well as further complications with the men in her life create even more drama. As she tries to navigate a world rife with subtle racism and flagrant sexism, Amy must also contend with her sexual appetites, her guilty motherhood, and the self-loathing that has always sabotaged her depthless creativity.

The book reads with the ease of a beach novel. Chiu’s prose rolls like fabric and pricks like a pin, piercing the politeness that covers up the deeper ugliness of nearly every social interaction. Here, Jeff attempts to correct Amy’s vision of him, just as she decides she might want to love him: “ ‘And that night,’ he says. ‘That wasn’t really me.’ I start to laugh. ‘You mean racist?’ ‘I was coked-up, high.’ He rolls his eyes. ‘So you’re not really racist,’ I say. ‘Only the coked-up you is racist?’ ‘Something like that, yes,’ he smirks.” Amy is a memorably intricate character, empathetic even as she is impulsive and sometimes thoughtless. The author deftly evokes the intensity of Amy’s desires—both physical and aesthetic—drawing readers along for every bad idea and moment of rebellion. The fashion world is depicted with luminous specificity—and, as a metaphorical field, it is perfectly selected—but Amy’s story will resonate for those operating in any industry in which the complex layers of race, gender, access, and propriety can complicate a woman’s every action. It’s a coming-of-age story that never stops, revealing how the decisions of youth reverberate and reoccur throughout the decades of a life.

A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73377-775-9

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Santa Fe Writers Project

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

TOM CLANCY TARGET ACQUIRED

Bentley keeps Jack Ryan Jr.’s life exciting in this latest grand-scale Tom Clancy adventure.

Ryan is in Tel Aviv on an “asset-validation exercise” for a private company referred to as The Campus, and he takes time to hang out at the beach. There, he sees a woman with a child who he can tell is autistic, and he saves her from a knife-wielding attacker. She’s flummoxed; who’d want to hurt her? When mother and son leave, Ryan wants to return the boy’s dropped Captain America toy. “What could go wrong with that?” he muses naïvely. Only three hell-raising threats in one day. Almost immediately he meets agents from Israeli security, Shin Bet. Who is he? What’s he doing there? But though he doesn’t lie about his name, no one ever exclaims, “Wow, you have the same name as the U.S. president. Any connection?” Anyway, Chinese State Security is also interested in the woman, and Jack doesn’t know why. And then mother and son are kidnapped. True to the Clancy style, what begins as the attempted return of a toy mushrooms into a threat of global conflict—“no good deed goes unpunished” is an apt cliché. Other enemies include Iran's Quds Force, an apocalyptic cult—and some smart jihadis, because “the dumb jihadis died a long time ago.” Ryan is a fierce warrior when the need arises, and he refuses a direct order to return to the U.S.: “Sorry, sir…no can do. I’ve got two innocents still at risk—a mother and child.” So even when the bad guys try to crucify him, “nobody did cornered junkyard dog better than Jack.” Meanwhile, an airborne threat may destroy Tel Aviv. The story has some nice wordplay, with helicopters “clawing for altitude like homesick angels,” and the F-35 being “part ballerina, part racehorse, and all killer.” While on the ground “blood flowed and bones broke,” and a female fighter jock has the final say.

Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18813-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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