Though unlikely to have the same polarizing impact on Americans as on Chinese readers, Shanghai Baby is a fascinating case...

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SHANGHAI BABY

This much-censored Chinese debut novel, a young woman’s tour of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, is likely to raise nary an eyebrow when set against its Western counterparts.

Even before the limited success of her short stories made Nikki, the autobiographical heroine, quit her lucrative job as a magazine writer to wait tables and try her hand at producing a “novel that will reveal the truth about mankind: violence, style, lust, joy, and then enigma, machines, power and death,” everyone called her Coco because of her long neck and her lust for fame. Since she can’t write a breakthrough opus with “profound intellectual content and a bestselling, sexy cover”—and thus has nothing to write about—she falls in love with Tian Tian, a coffeeshop drug addict who lives off his distant mother, and soon thereafter with Mark, a married investment counselor from Berlin. Under the sign of Salvador Dali, Henry Miller, and the Beatles, Coco oscillates between her two incomplete lovers, each fulfilling her in different ways, each seeming to make her forget the other in his presence. In between sessions of writing and lovemaking, she introduces her calculatedly outrageous relationships with Tian Tian’s friend Madonna, a former madam whose rich old husband obligingly died soon after the wedding; Pu Yong, the rocker she once interviewed; and Shamir, the lesbian filmmaker whom Mark is eager to have her meet. The drumbeat of brand names and carpe diem pleasures is both avant-garde and deeply old-fashioned, from Tian Tian’s opening note saying “I love you” to the three-handkerchief finale that brings the novel Coco’s been working on together with the one she’s been moving through.

Though unlikely to have the same polarizing impact on Americans as on Chinese readers, Shanghai Baby is a fascinating case study of the impact of Western rhetoric and pop culture, from Nikes to nihilism, on the mysterious East.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-2156-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

THE DECEPTION

A successful businesswoman hires a smooth-talking bounty hunter to find a lead on her sister’s murder.

Kate Gallagher was the only one available to identify her younger sister Chrissy’s body after she was found dead, having run away from home two years earlier. Since Chrissy succumbed to drugs and turned to sex work to survive, her murder isn't taken seriously by the local homicide department. Kate is filled with grief and regret at not having been there for her sister, and she’s determined to find her killer as a kind of penance. Jason Maddox is the charming man Kate almost hooked up with at a local bar. He also happens to be on the payroll of the most successful investigation company in Dallas. He’s all too eager to help Kate out and spend more time getting to know the blonde he danced with at the Sagebrush Saloon. At first, Kate and Jason vow to keep things professional until the case is solved; there’s obvious attraction that they’re willing to pursue at a later date. But the increasing sense of danger mixed with Kate and Jason’s close proximity proves to be too heady of a combination. The tension never lets up as the pair visit seedy bars and interrogate unsavory characters. With a steamy romance and undeniably hot chemistry, the main characters are well matched. They’re both driven, slightly stubborn, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of catching criminals. Martin (The Conspiracy, 2019, etc.) doesn’t skimp on graphic, violent details as Chrissy’s murder leads her couple to something much bigger: human trafficking. Though not for the faint of heart given its weighty material, this is an un-put-down-able page-turner that’s sure to satisfy fans of romance and thrillers alike.

A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-00769-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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