When Lia Frank travels to China to evaluate a cache of rare antique porcelain she enters an exotic world full of danger, mystery, and romance. I was so entranced by the story I actually went to see a real "chicken cup" at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
by Publishers Weekly,
"Mones's second novel...twins a conventional romance with an unconventional and intriguing art world mystery....[Mones] generates real suspense moving cinematically from character to character and place to place all the while deftly sketching the intricacies of Chinese porcelain and the world of imitators and smugglers that surround it."
by Carol Haggas, Booklist,
"Intrepid yet insecure, passionate yet proud, Lia triumphs in the seductively exotic world of international intrigue, one which Mones conveys with depth and subtlety."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[A] beguiling if overbusy tale....Intelligent and consistently interesting, with an engagingly original cast, subject, and themes — but the story itself often lags."
by The Dallas Morning News,
"A page-turner that leads us into a closed, sometimes clandestine world....Mones' talent for intrigue runneth over."
by The Los Angeles Times,
"A delightful novel."
by The Seattle Times,
"Magnetic storytelling...with writing that is both spare and lyrical."
by The Portland Tribune (Oregon),
"Mysterious, suspenseful, and...written with exquisite grace."
by Library Journal,
"Unfortunately, Mones reveals more about porcelain pots than human nature; any tension revolves around the dangers of the black market venture....Hints at possibly rich themes are scattered throughout this tedious novel, but they are never developed."
1. Lia chooses to wear hearing aids instead of getting more discreet implants. What does this say about her personality and her interaction with the outside world? Is there something she is seeking to escape?
2. How did growing up with hearing aids shape Lia into the person she has become? Has it had an effect on her success as an appraiser?
3. Unlike most ah chans, Bai does not smuggle porcelain purely for the money or the element of risk. What does Bai hope to achieve in his craft? What sort of fulfillment could it offer?
4. Why is Lia so interested in finding the Master of the Ruffled Feather? Is she disappointed or delighted with what she finds?
5. Would you say that Gao Yideng is more of a tycoon or a connoisseur? And what about Jack? Why do you think this?
6. When Lias partner is unable to accompany her in Beijing, she is afraid that she will be unable to do the job on her own. Why is this fear so prominent? Is she able to overcome it?
7. In China, it is common for experts to also make pots themselves. However, Lia only likes to look at and touch them. Why do you think that is?
8. What did the plane crash make Lia realize about her knowledge of Chinas history and her place as an American citizen on foreign soil? Do you think that it has a lasting impact on her?
9. Lia is only able to catch a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful about herself before she goes back to focusing on her imperfections, inside and out. Do you think that her relationship with Michael changed that? What are some of the symbols of that change?
10. Why is Lia so interested in obtaining the Chenghua chicken cup even though she knows it is a fake? What does it represent to her?
11. Do you think that Bai learns a lasting lesson from the fate of Hu and Sun? Does it affect his outlook on his family and his own future? What do you think happens to him after the book?
12. Lia has mastered the art of memory, while Michael seeks to master the science of forgetting. What does this say about them as individuals and as a couple? Do you see them reversing roles by the end of the book?
For expert American appraiser Lia Frank, the assignment is a dream come true: Fly to Beijing and appraise a stunning cache of rare imperial porcelain. Adored by emperors, these masterpieces are living embodiments of the past, with an irresistible pull on collectors, tycoons, master forgers, and, above all, the smugglers who risk capture and instant execution in the hopes of unimaginable wealth. All of them yearn for what the art can bring--wealth, power, a place in the world. Lia's whole life has been shaped by her passion for this art. Knowledge of her own life, however, is more elusive. As she treads dangerously in a culture that looks at foreigners with wary eyes, she moves slowly toward a very different kind of desire--and toward a life of her own.
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