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Portrait of a Thief
Portrait of a Thief: A Novel | Grace D. Li
Oceans Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums, about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now. Will Chen plans to steal them back. A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son that has always been his parents American Dream. But when a shadowy Chinese corporation reaches out with an impossibleand illegaljob offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago. His crew is every heist archetype one can imagineor at least, the closest he can get. A conman: Irene Chen, Wills sister and a public policy major at Duke, who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering student who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they've cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down. Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars--and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything theyve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen. With poetic language, a fun, commercial hook, and a plot that spans the Western world, Portrait of a Thief is both a cultural heist and an examination of the Chinese American identity, as well as a necessary critique of the lingering effects of colonialism that readers wont want to miss.
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bookandbedandtea
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Pickpick

There's a lot of food for thought here and I enjoyed that. The heist aspect required significant, and ongoing, suspension of disbelief, which grew tiring. I liked the 5 MCs but I wanted a little more out of them. They all seemed a little flat. I liked the results of the last theft and I tend to like books set in the art world so this is a soft pick for me.

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BC_Dittemore
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Panpan

I really don‘t want to pan this; there‘s a great story here, but the execution is endlessly repetitive and little more than generic platitudes. The five main characters, despite Li constantly telling us that they are different, all feel like the same person. Maybe, in a novel where the focus is more about Chinese American‘s diaspora than the heist plot it‘s framed within, that‘s the point Li is making, but it makes for an exhausting read.

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MallenNC
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Pickpick

This was a fun read with some layers! There are a lot of main characters and chapters switch their POVs but it was worth it to get to know everyone. (Lily was my favorite). It turned out differently than I expected too. Extra fun that it is partly set in Durham, which is close to where I live. This was my #BookSpin for August.

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aperfectmjk
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Did some more audiocrafting today. This one was a bit out of my comfort zone, it didn't turn out exactly as envisioned, but I gave it my best.

Inspired by a photo taken by Austrian photographer Julian Rad.

#audiocrafting #litsycrafters #rockpainting

RaeLovesToRead So cute!!! 🥰 Great work! 2mo
Gissy It is so pretty! 😍 2mo
peanutnine That is amazing! You're so talented! ❤️ 2mo
See All 6 Comments
Ruthiella It‘s adorable! 😍 2mo
Catsandbooks Adorable! Your work is always so beautiful! 2mo
37 likes6 comments
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suvata
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suvata
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Pickpick

ModernMrsDarcy.com 2022 Summer Reading Guide #MMDSummerReading

#StoryGraph: fiction contemporary lgbtqia+ thriller emotional mysterious reflective medium-paced
384 pages

From the Publisher:
This was how things began: Boston on the cusp of fall, the Sackler Museum robbed of 23 pieces of priceless Chinese art. Even in this back room, dust catching the slant of golden, late-afternoon light, Will could hear the sirens. They sounded like a promise.

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emmaturi
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Pickpick

Five Chinese American students decide to steal from Western museums Chinese art stolen from China centuries ago. It was an interesting read and definitely enjoyed it, but not loved it.

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coffees
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Pickpick

Finished! Picked this one up bc I heard it was about heists but it ended up being less exciting than I thought. Instead, it was a much more somber read and dealt more with character growth and relationships with our family and roots. Also, I heard this was a #queer title so was excited about that but idk, it felt pretty bland, their dynamic only showing closer to the ending. Still a good read and even some unexpected twists, 3.5 for me

Andrew65 Great 👏👏👏 3mo
7 likes2 comments
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living_for_literature
Pickpick

I loved the characters and the themes of identity and purpose and belonging. While the heist plot was interesting enough, I do think there could have been a faster pace and more obstacles thrown in.

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triplem80
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Pickpick

I had so much fun reading this book! It wasn't just the story and the storytelling though -- I have to admit that I appreciated the scenes set at Duke University. It definitely had me feeling nostalgic for my beloved alma mater!

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emmaturi
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I managed a bit of reading in between arriving and walking around. It's so hot just now, 32 degrees!

26 likes1 stack add
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emmaturi
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I am going to Florence for a long weekend starting tomorrow and taking these books with me. Already started the tagged book already.

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Branwen
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This week's book recommendation videos feature Asian American authors in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! This week and next I'll be highlighting great YA and adult books by wonderful authors! Please give them a view and a like! I appreciate all the support! 💙 📚

YA Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3bZ0FZ-AHk

Adult Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyRnhcfBpD0&t=61s

vivastory Great videos📚📚 5mo
Branwen @vivastory Thank you so much! 5mo
47 likes2 comments
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marleed
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Mehso-so

I anticipate a heist book to be sharp, funny, snarky - where I root for the criminals to get one over on selfish museum curators hoarding undeserved riches. There‘s story and history here that could work and with tweaking be successfully adapted to screen, but as is, these 5 Chinese-American interconnected Ivy League Gen-Zer‘s desire to return Zodiac Heads to China in exchange for $50 million, fell flat for me.

Cinfhen Yeah/ it didn‘t work for me either 5mo
marleed @Cinfhen I really wanted to like it more and believe it just needed some tweaking so I‘d be invested in the characters. 5mo
Megabooks Agree with your review 👍🏻 5mo
67 likes3 stack adds3 comments
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Branwen
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Chaplin and I are hoping to finish this one soon - it is EXCELLENT so far! 😍 #catsoflitsy #littenkitten #chaplin

Leftcoastzen 😻so handsome! 5mo
62 likes1 comment
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BookBelle84
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I love this cover! #nofilter

SheReadsAndWrites I just bought this and my husband is reading it - no review yet... 😊 5mo
22 likes1 comment
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Hooked_on_books
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Mehso-so

This book was a disappointment. It has a fun premise, but the author makes it feel derivative rather than believable, then drags out the second half for no apparent reason. There are moments of brilliance here, and I feel like this could have been a really good book if the editor had pushed the author more. This felt like a early draft.

vivastory This is so disappointing. When I heard about this book I was really excited because I love a good heist story, especially once the weather turns warmer. But the mixed reviews have convinced me to seek out a better heist book. 5mo
Hooked_on_books @vivastory Yeah, I think you should look elsewhere. Here‘s an option: this is a fabulous nonfiction heist book that I couldn‘t put down 5mo
Megabooks Great review! 5mo
59 likes3 comments
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Branwen
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Starting this one next! 💕📚💕 I keep seeing it being talked about everywhere, do I thought I'd give it a try! 😃 Happy Monday, littens! #catsoflitsy #littenkitten #rumpel

RaeLovesToRead MY RUMPEL BUDDY!!!! 🥰🥰🥰 5mo
Branwen @RaeLovesToRead I gave her a hug from you! 😁💕 5mo
RaeLovesToRead Yay! Hugs from Auntie Rae 🤗💕 5mo
50 likes3 comments
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rachelsbrittain
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Finished two books today! Excited to have freed up my reading to start Love on the Brain and Siren Queen though tbh 😅

Tianarose I just read “the chosen and the beautiful” by Nghi Vo. Love her writing. 5mo
wanderinglynn I‘m getting ready to start 10 Steps to Nanette. 😀 5mo
53 likes3 comments
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rachelsbrittain
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Little man just reached up to hold on to my overalls and is making it very hard to concentrate on my book (which, if I'm being honest, I was having a hard time concentrating on anyway).

BookNAround So sweet! 6mo
MoonWitch94 Precious 💜 5mo
marleed Oh so sweet! 5mo
63 likes3 comments
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TorieStorieS
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Mehso-so

The slick Chen siblings assemble a group of fellow college students to pull off a great art heist to reclaim looted Chinese artwork to China. With five narrators and some unfortunate head-hopping and uneven pacing, this isn‘t quite the novel I expected. But some scenes really shine and I especially enjoyed Daniel‘s arc. The romances are easy to see coming but some of the angst gets repetitive. A good conversation starter for sure! Available now!

Megabooks Daniel was definitely the best arc. I also enjoyed Lily‘s…until it got so angsty at the end. 6mo
TorieStorieS @Megabooks Ugh- I know!! Glad to know I wasn‘t alone in thinking this!! 🥰 6mo
49 likes2 comments
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Megabooks
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Panpan

Ugh! I should‘ve listened to Cindy! This book DRAGGED and devolved into angsty whining at the end, which sealed the pan. The #audiobook production is really poor, too.

Five Chinese-American college students set out to steal back the artifacts from the Summer Palace in Beijing. The palace burned during colonial times and the artifacts sit in Western museums. What could‘ve been a great heist caper or a look at colonialism was neither and sucked!

Cinfhen Excellent review!!!! And I so agree, the premise had such PROMISE!!! But this was no literary Ocean Eleven 😬 6mo
Cathythoughts Great pan review 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 6mo
marleed Oh dang, I just a put a library hold on this one! 6mo
See All 9 Comments
Megabooks @Cinfhen definitely not! 6mo
Megabooks @Cathythoughts thanks! They‘re fun to write every now and again. 6mo
Megabooks @marleed at least you‘ didn‘t buy it, unlike me. 🤦🏻‍♀️ try it and see what you think. There‘s always room for me to be wrong 6mo
marleed @Megabooks Ha - I almost released it and then read in the stats 4 more copies were purchased. So I‘ll wait for my hold and give it a try. Is it just weird that I considered my hold could have affected the count enough to justify one of those four additional purchases so that now I feel a responsibility to give it a go!? I put a hold on it though so I only dive in after a few really good reads! 6mo
Hooked_on_books I have this from the library and will try it but am lowering my expectations. I heard the author on a podcast and she came across as a bit of a ditz, which is amazing since she‘s clearly incredibly capable and intelligent. 5mo
Megabooks @Hooked_on_books yeah, this wasn‘t what I was expecting. I‘m curious about what you‘ll think. It was a low so-so when I finished, but when I took my typical day to think, I dropped it a star. A TON of unrealized potential. 5mo
75 likes9 comments
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rachelsbrittain
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A wide range of genres this weekend, which is pretty typical for me: a heist novel, a memoir, romance, and contemporary fiction.

#WeekendReading @Andrew65

Andrew65 An interesting array of books. 6mo
48 likes1 comment
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rachelsbrittain
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Reading with my favorite little man

bcncookbookclub So sweet! Enjoy him, they grown up very fast... 6mo
Johanna414 The little toes!!! 💙💗❤ I miss that tiny baby phase... it doesn't last long enough! 6mo
marleed Enjoy, I emergency babysat the 6mo old son of my neighbor this week. He is one year to the day younger than my grand twins. I cannot believe what happens in a year. It‘s a blink of an eye. Enjoy every minute you have. 6mo
Megabooks Cute!! 6mo
62 likes1 stack add4 comments
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rachelsbrittain
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1. Portrait of a Thief and Where the Wild Ladies Are

2. Both, for sure!

3. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

#WeekendReads

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rachelsbrittain
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📚📚📚

review
Preciouz29
Pickpick

Representation matters and as a Chinese American child of first gen parents, I feel so seen. Also, the story was fun and the twist was both expected and unexpected. Very minor quibbles, but I will say the Chens seem a wee toxic. Hopefully they‘ve changed.