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Most people are fascinated by the con job, myself included.  Maybe it’s the mystery of the underworld, perhaps it’s the brilliance of schemes most of us are too moral to contemplate.  Whatever our motives for finding enjoyment in con jobs, one can look to books and movies like “The Sting”, “Paper Moon”, or “Ocean’s Eleven” to verify the popularity.  I’d say Dizzy City fits comfortably into this category.

Dizzy City by Nicholas Griffin is the story of Benedict Cramb, a 1916 English soldier of the Great War.  After deserting and running off to America, he hooks up with a master con artist who takes him under his wing.  As con artists try to pull one over on con artists, readers will marvel at the complexity of plot.  Dizzy City had such brilliant twists and turns that I often grinned or laughed out loud whenever Griffin caught me offguard, which was regularly.  It seemed every chapter or two something happened to throw me off the trail of where the story would lead.  And I’m not easily fooled.  Maybe it’s all the book reviewing I do, but I’m always annoyed that I figure out endings before the book is near completion.  I’ve been banned from guessing during movies because my husband tires of me figuring it out.  But Dizzy City?  No way.  I hadn’t a clue where it was going, and I thoroughly enjoyed being fooled.  Perhaps being conned.

Dizzy City is Nicholas Griffin’s fourth historical novel.  His latest proves to be heavily researched, full of rich living detail, and completely captivating.  If you’re in the market for a mystery, a historical novel, or for a con job, Dizzy City is your next fix.

Published by Steerforth Press.

I’ve been wanting to review books either written by Chinese authors or containing a Chinese setting, but until recently, I haven’t really seen many. Now I have a few waiting on my “to-be-reviewed” shelf; I suppose we can credit this interest to the Beijing Olympics. Lately we’ve all had a little glimpse into different aspects of Chinese life and culture. For me, The Painter from Shanghai has been more than a glimpse; it has been a riveting history lesson hidden between the pages of an amazing story.

Jennifer Cody Epstein took her fascination with the Chinese painter Pan Yuliang and turned it into a well-written, painstakingly researched story that gives us a vivid portrait of what this artist’s life may have been like. Although we don’t know a lot of detail about Pan Yuliang, we do know she was orphaned and sold into prostitution, and that she was rescued by a man who took a special interest in her. There are other skeletal details, but Epstein has filled in the picture to add flesh and muscle. Pan Yuliang and her early 1900’s China leaps to life and keeps every one of the over 400 pages burning with tales of art, Chinese culture, and one woman’s struggle to become the artist society says she has no right to be.

Having been to art school, I appreciated Epstein’s ability to comfortably write about art and the technical aspects of painting and drawing. As an avid reader, I was impressed with her knack for making these technical tidbits flow through a story, without dragging the reader through any dull sections. Everything flowed effortlessly in a way that will allow any reader to follow the pace set.

Want to win your own copy of The Painter from Shanghai? I’ve got your ticket to China via typeface, so leave me a comment and good luck!

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me if you know anything of Chinese art or culture. What interests you most about either? Have fun with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Friday, August 22, 2008, to enter.

Published by W.W. Norton & Company.