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The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

Source: Mingmei Yip, the author
Paperback, 320 pages
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Skeleton Women‘s Heavenly Songbird Camilla returns in The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip (check out Chapter One) after a quick exit from Shanghai in the 1930s into Hong Kong.  She’s hiding out away from the gangsters she betrayed, but this once emotionless spy now must endure guilt and longing.  She does not know the fate of her love Jinying, nor of her lover Gao, but more importantly, she knows that her baby, Jinjin, is alive but not where he is.  Yip has a firm grasp of the atmosphere during this period in Shanghai, a time when gangs ran the government, businesses, and held everyone else at gunpoint.  The corruption, backroom deals, and fear permeate this novel, and Camilla is forced to return to Shanghai even though her life is clearly going to be in danger there.  Using her skills as a trained skeleton woman — which include seduction — she is able to disguise herself and create plausible stories on the spot, but the trick now is not to let her emotions rule her, which in some instances they do, leading to trouble.

“Unwilling to give up, I forced my tired feet to carry me into the hall and through the door to the next room.  Once I had stepped across the threshold, I noticed something different, even eerie, but I couldn’t pinpoint what that was–except it came with an unpleasant smell.  Instead of rows of cribs as in the other room, this one had only one single large bed in which was what looked like a huge lump covered with a black cloud.  I couldn’t tell what it was in the distance, but it was heaving like a collective heartbeat.  I went up to take a closer look.” (page 102 ARC)

While Camilla searches for her baby, she’s also searching for her lovers, but in the midst of her investigations she meets up with an American ambassador who could offer her protection from the gangs and falls into the hands of Rainbow Chang, a gossip columnist and head of the Pink Skeleton Women.  At many times, she is in danger, and in spite of this danger, she’s confident she has the perfect plan for escape, but given that the novel is told from her point of view, readers also will hear her inner demons and learn of her shaky confidence.  Wallowing in self-pity becomes a mantra for Camilla early on in the novel, and it becomes a drone in the background even as the plot moves forward, making it difficult to like the protagonist.  However, her determination to find peace and her family are rewarding and helps build an emotional connection with the reader, especially given her sordid past as a skeleton woman and a sad orphan.

“So after seemingly endless gentle twisting in all the auspicious and inauspicious directions and angles, with the application of just a little strength, the lock finally surrendered with a long-awaited sigh of release.  I couldn’t help but feel satisfaction at the culmination of my courtship of the lock.”  (page 249 ARC)

The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip is peppered with poetry, proverbs, and more, and it’s a solid follow-up to Skeleton Women (which does not have to be read first), though the ending could be an opening for a third book.  Yip is talented and understands how to create a story that is deep in its passions and exciting in plot.  While Camilla can be hard to love, her plight is age-old.

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 is 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.

For more about the author and her books visit her Website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Writing Space of Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip has been writing and publishing since she was fourteen years old and now she has twelve books to her credit.  Her five novels are published by Kensington Books and her two children’s books are published by Tuttle Publishing.  Mingmei is also a renowned qin (ancient string instrument) musician, calligrapher and painter.  In Hong Kong, she was a columnist for seven major newspapers.  She has appeared on over sixty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and the US. Visit her Website.

Last year, I really enjoyed Skeleton Women, and The Nine Fold Heaven picks up where the previous book ends.  “An ex spy and nightclub singer who undertakes an emotional and dangerous journey to reunite with her lost lover and the baby she was told was stillborn, and to discover the secret of her parents’ murder.”

Mingmei Yip - Author of Nine Fold HeavenCome along with an ex spy as she returns to Shanghai where she’s a wanted woman – but she has to search for her baby and her lost lover. Is her baby really alive? Will she be able to find her lover? Can she elude the police long enough to find them? Learn much more about The Nine Fold Heaven and Mingmei Yip.

Nine Fold Heaven is part of a series about Camilla the songbird and female spy – you can also read Skeleton Women, the first book about Camilla.

Today, I’ve got a great guest post from Yip about her writing space.  Please give her a warm welcome.

Writing space: I only write at home. I can’t write at cafes, since most have loud music which is a distraction for me. But when they play classical music, then I stop writing and listen, so that does not work for me, either.

Writing Space - 3I consider myself lucky to have a small room just for myself in my apartment which I use as my writing space. Luckily, my little room has a view of the north side of Manhattan and the East River. So, when I just can’t type anymore, I lift my head and soothe my eyes by staring at the peaceful scene outside the window. Soon I am refreshed and back at work.

I have decorated my writing room with some of my favorite things – books, plants, flowers, my own paintings and calligraphy. Writing is a solitary and difficult journey, so I try to fill my space with what I find both beautiful and spiritually inspiring. I also keep amulets next to me for protection, just in case.

Writing Space - 1Writing habits: I don’t have a chance to write every day, because like everyone else, I have other responsibilities in life. So when I have a chance to write, I write as much and as long as I can. This is like gorging yourself when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. In any case, it is what works for me. It helps that I can take a nap whenever I want.

Writing tips: I plunge into writing and ignore everything around me. Since I was a tiny girl I have always preferred life inside my own head. Whenever I have writer’s block, I’ll read or watch a movie. This usually triggers ideas for me so I can go back to write. I also read a lot, not only to feed my imagination and creativity, but also to have a point of comparison for my own writing.

Writing Space - 2I think it is still essential to master the basics. Not only voice, characterization, dialogue, plot, but also sentence structure, its rhythm and music. I always try to vary the length of my sentences and start each one with a different subject. It’s essential to spent whatever time it takes to find the right word. Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph.

There is a Chinese saying “Slap on the thigh and exclaim!” That’s how the readers will react to a good choice of word. Readers may not be aware of the meticulous hard work behind a smooth sentence, but if you don’t pay attention, they will soon become bored. I also think it’s good for authors to attend other cultural activities such as movies, concerts, art exhibitions. Have as diverse a background as you can cultivate, that really helps.

Most important, don’t give up! The ancient Chinese philosophy classic, the Daode Jing says more things are spoiled in the end than the beginning. Stick through to the end.

Thanks, Mingmei, for sharing your writing space with us, as well as your writing habits. I’m the opposite, too much quiet and I can’t write.

Mailbox Monday #225

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  June’s host is Dolce Bellezza.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad, which came unexpectedly from Hachette Books.

After years of unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a child, Ana and James become parents overnight, when a terrible accident makes them guardians to 2 ¿ year-old Finn. Suddenly, two people who were struggling to come to terms with childlessness are thrust into the opposite situation-responsible for a small toddler whose mother’s survival is in question.

Finn’s crash-landing in their tidy, urban lives throws into high relief some troubling truths about their deepest selves, both separately and as a couple. Several chaotic, poignant, and life-changing weeks as a most unusual family give rise to an often unasked question: Can everyone be a parent?

2.  The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip, which came from the author for review.

In this mesmerizing new novel, Mingmei Yip draws readers deeper into the exotic world of 1930s Shanghai first explored in Skeleton Women, and into the lives of the unforgettable Camilla, Shadow, and Rainbow Chang.

When Shadow, a gifted, ambitious magician, competed with the beautiful Camilla for the affections of organized crime leader Master Lung, she almost lost everything. Hiding out in Hong Kong, performing in a run-down circus, Shadow has no idea that Camilla, too, is on the run with her lover, Jinying—Lung’s son.

Yet while Camilla and Shadow were once enemies, now their only hope of freedom lies in joining forces to eliminate the ruthless Big Brother Wang. Despite the danger, Shadow, Camilla, and Jinying return to Shanghai. Camilla also has her own secret agenda—she has heard a rumor that her son is alive. And in a city teeming with spies and rivals—including the vengeful Rainbow Chang—each battles for a future in a country on the verge of monumental change.

What did you receive?