ARC Review: Portrait Of A Thief || heists, art, history and identity all in one

History is told by conquerors. And amazing stories, as it turns out, are told by Miss Grace Li.

Portrait of a Thief

Title: Portrait Of A Thief
Author: Grace D. Li
Genre: Adult Mystery, Contemporary
Publisher: Tiny Reparations Books
Publishing Date: 5th April, 2022

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

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 impossible—and illegal—job 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 imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A conman: Irene Chen, Will’s 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 they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for sending me in e-ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

Buddy read with Prutha @Moonchild Lexicons!

I hate to tell you this, but if you go into this book looking for action-packed heists, high speed thrilling chases, so-close-to-getting-caught getaways and a million other things you associate with the word “heist”, you are going to be disappointed.

And to be honest, I was slightly disappointed by the slowness of it all in the very beginning. But with the deliberation with which all of it was written, I soon came to realize that maybe that was the whole point. Maybe the author was trying to prove that all heist stories need not be fist fighting, epic showdowns and dramatic getaways. They can be on the emotional side of things.

For the aforementioned reason, it would be a near crime to define this book as a heist story. Sure, our crew had to battle against gripping stakes and go on a few (read: 5) heists, but as a whole, the story was about SO much more. Our entire cast of main characters were Chinese-Americans college students, trying to cope with questions surrounding their identities, while doing their best to not disappoint their families. They were trying to make a future for themselves while trying not to dishonour their past.

If I had to put it in numbers, I’d say the book was 95% thoughts and 5% action. The internal wrestling with their identities definitely took up all the spotlight, while the external conflict (the heist plot) was comfortable backstage. It was one of those books that gives you insight into what a character is thinking and feeling, rather than doing.

Speaking of characters, I did feel like a couple of the main characters were written in a slightly 2-dimensional sort of way (and I found Irene annoying), but that didn’t stop me for rooting for them throughout the story. Daniel was by far my favourite character, the way he and his father had this thing going on seemed so relatable to me and I could really connect to him.

All that being said, Portrait Of A Thief was an overall contemplative book. I’d recommend it to fans of Jeffery Archer’s Nothing Ventured (with the action amped down a little bit) and anyone in general looking for a slow paced but thought-provoking read. Go add this to your tbr, because it comes out in no more than 2 months from now!

Which is your favourite slow paced read? Have you read Portrait Of A Thief? Is it on your TBR? Chat with me in the comments!

~ Rachel

October + November Wrap-Up // superheroes, murder mysteries, heists and aliens

*inside a cave* Quack. Quaaaaack! *no answer*

Ahem. Sorry, I was just testing whether this unbelievable bird fact that I came across was true.
Apparently, a duck’s quack does not echo ANYWHERE, and no one knows why.

With this time’s monthly weird bird fact we have established, once more, that ducks are creepy.

I am not kidding when I say October was a terrible reading month. It was one of those hectic months when suddenly all sorts of exams and tests came up- school, coaching institute and other additional projects. However, lack of time wasn’t the only reason I didn’t read much, I also fell in a sort of reading slump. The result – only 4 books, my lowest so far this year.

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)
★★★★
THE HUMOUR?! unfortunately it was a tad too predictable for my taste

Skyward (Skyward, #1)
★★★½
idk how to feel about this book

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #1)
★★★★
the mystery was nicely constructed, but i personally am not a fan of how it was resolved at the very end

Perfect on Paper
★★★★½
ahh i finally understand the massive hype surrounding this

November was a total turnaround from October. I suddenly had lots of free time and found myself out of my slump too so naturally, lots of books and a very happy human.

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, #2)
★★★
um. no. sorry.
Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2)
★★★★
once again, spot on humour and the plot was better than the first one
The Helheim Princess (The Helheim Prophecy, #1)
★★★★
something about the structure of the story felt a little amateur, but otherwise all good
The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)
★★★★½
the six of crows vibes this gave me was just-
Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
(reread)
as good as the first time if not better??
Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1)
★★½
i am no expert but this is not how a mystery is supposed to be written. and what even was that ending?
These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)
★★★★★
whoa. just whoa. i need the sequel now😭
This Last Adventure
★★★★
so emotional and thought provoking

Hmm there’s not much to say really. I spent more than half of October on hiatus so I posted very little, and November was a pretty average month.
Here are my top 3 posts from October and November! (click on the featured images to be taken to the respective posts!)

I share my thoughts on We Are Not Free, an emotionally wrenching story set during WWII (basically a whole lot of crying and screaming)

I recommend my favourite books by POC authors and likewise leads and also share a part of my diverse tbr!

In this insanely chaotic post I choose books to throw at Jesper if I was David from the Shadow & Bone show!

Kashvi @Kerch Books lists her favourite books of the year so far!

Phoenix @Books With Wings shares 5 reasons she’s grateful for blogging!

Siena @Booksophobia discusses why she never requests arcs anymore!

Khyati @Booklore recommends books with pretty covers!

Madeline @The Bookish Mutant shares sci-fi books with the found family trope!

Amanda @Bookish Brews explains what dark fantasy is and recommends some diverse dark fantasy reads!

Isha @Paperbacktomes writes why she prefers paperbacks over hardbacks!

April @Booked Till Midnight reviews Down Comes The Night!

Aashi @Words On Fleek shares some things she gets told as a bookworm!

Gauri @ A Book And Chai lists lots of diverse 2022 debuts to look out for!

Birdie @Birdie’s Booktopia shares her anticipated releases of November!

Kaya @ A Fictional Bookworm lists the 5 tropes she can’t get enough of!

Cherry @Letters To The Lost shares her fictional bucket list!

Rania @Rania’s Rambling Reads reviews A Lesson In Vengeance!

Asic @ Haven lists the things she’d rate a 0/10!

Saima @Stories With Saima shares her top 10 books she’s read this year so far!

💨 I went on a road trip with my parents and our neighbors to Shirdi, a very popular temple where I live. The trip took a little longer than planned (we spent more than 10 hours in the car!) but okay.

💨 I created an account on Edelweiss and went on a requesting spree, not expecting to get approved for any of them. BUT I GOT APPROVED FOR MY FIRST REQUEST (Portrait of a thief) WHICH WAS ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES OF 2022!! I mean, it has a heist plot so… (I’m still waiting on my other 5 arc requests🤞)

💨 I did not touch a single cracker this Diwali! #GreenDiwali

💨 I started writing again! My WIP, which I started in late October, was abandoned for most of November, but then in the last week of November I finished writing the first chapter of my fantasy novel!!

Do you use Edelweiss? Have you read any of the books I read in these two months? Scream with me about them in the comments!

~ Rachel