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Skeleton Women

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  289 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Once upon a time in China, the most beautiful and gifted women were known as “skeleton women”—the ultimate femme fatales who could bring a man to his knees, or to his doom…

When Camilla, a young orphan girl in Shanghai, is adopted and brought to live in luxury, it seems like a stroke of luck. But as Camilla grows to womanhood, she realizes that her “rescue” was part of gang
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 25th 2012 by Kensington Publishing Corp. (first published January 1st 2012)
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I really looked forward to reading Skeleton Women, how awesome it would be to read about 1930s Shanghai! What we have between the covers is a story of love, wrapped up in survival, loss, confusion, and danger. What’s not to like?

The stiff prose, for one. Constant repetition. Overuse of quotes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War – which highlights the disparity between what she thinks she ought to do, and what she actually does. Camilla’s complete self-absorption isn’t appealing either. She’s beautiful
Jun 28, 2012 Harvee rated it really liked it
Skeleton women appear in North American myths - the Inuit, Hopi, Alaskan Eskimo, and other stories as symbols of relationships, and of life and death in nature. In Mingmei Yip's novel set in early 1900s Shanghai, Skeleton Women refer to women who are trained spies, beautiful assassins and courtesans who seduce their male victims in order to eventually turn them into skeletons of death.

And yet, the orphan Camilla, who was trained to be such a deceiver by her boss Master Wang, finds it difficult t
Jun 13, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
Kensington|May 29, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7582-7353-6

Story Description:

Once upon a time in China, the most beautiful and gifted women were known as “skeleton women” – the ultimate femme fatales who could bring a man to his knees, or to his doom…When Camilla, a young orphan girl in Shanghai, is adopted and brought to live in luxury, it seems like a stroke of luck. But as Camilla grows to womanhood, she realizes that her “rescue” was part of gang leader Big Brother Wang’s scheme. Camilla
Kring Lacson
Feb 21, 2015 Kring Lacson rated it did not like it
1.5 stars for this one.

I have a big bias towards novels penned by Asian authors. These writers just have a way of making their craft poetic: the syntax, simplicity, and setting of their work combine together to form a graceful, fluid prose. Yup, you could say that I had high hopes for Skeleton Women.

But perhaps I expected too much. I was upset when I finished the novel; I thought the ending would have some sort of redeeming factor which would turn my whole opinion of the book around. It did not
Camilla, the Heavenly Songbird with the angelic voice, is a skeleton women - a beautiful woman trained to seduce men, uncover their secrets, and if necessary, reduce them to corpses. She was plucked from an orphanage as a child and groomed to be the perfect spy. Her mission: to discover the secrets of the number one gangster in town, Master Lung, for her boss Big Brother Wang, the number two gangster in town. At the tender age of nineteen, Camilla has become a celebrated singer in Shanghai and M ...more
Carrie Ardoin
Camilla was plucked from an orphanage at 14 years old and trained to become a skeleton woman--a dangerous double agent who's working for one mob boss to destroy his rival. As Camilla becomes deeper ingrained into the gang, she not only has to be the mistress for its' leader, Master Lung, but she must attempt to steal his financial information and assassinate him as well.

As if this weren't enough, Camilla's life becomes more complicated when an enigmatic female magician named Shadow comes to Shan
Kari Anderson
Jul 08, 2012 Kari Anderson rated it really liked it
Skeleton women is a Chinese phrase for femme fatales. In Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip, you are introduced to three of these such ladies. Your leading lady is Camilla, an orphan who was wired by a gangster to get in good with Shanghai’s most prominent gangster in the 1930s and kill him. She sings her way into his heart and after years of training to keep her emotions hidden, they make their way up to the surface and she finds herself in the middle of a love square, with a time running out to com ...more
Jul 14, 2014 Jillyn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Women, everyone
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

An orphan, lead character Camilla was brought up & trained to be a spy by a gang, mastering strategies & skills (such as knife throwing, singing, & contortions) that make her a skeleton woman, or a Chinese femme fatale. Gang leader Big Brother Wang secures her a place in the 1930's nightlife scene of Shanghai as a lounge singer of great esteem. But all of this loveliness is only to gain the attention of rival gang leader, Master Lung
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I'm of two minds about this book but I think in the end I can say I enjoyed it. Camilla, a 19 year old orphan, was raised by a Chinese gangster to be the mistress of his rival -- in hopes that Camilla can lead the man to ruin and death. Beautiful, a talented singer, ruthless, and emotionless, Camilla flourishes in Shanghai amid wealth, decadence, violence, and intrigue -- until she meets Shadow, a beautiful and talented magician and illusionist who vies for her seat in Shanghai royalty.

The title
Jennifer Collins
Jan 02, 2014 Jennifer Collins rated it did not like it
On the whole, this book was just disappointing. The writing and characters both left much to be desired, and some of the plot points verged on the ridiculous. One cringe-worthy moment I won't forget is when a character photographs some few pages from a diary that just happen to tell her all of the old history of a character, perfectly answering her questions. Especially in the beginning of the book, when the author attempts to convince her audience that Camilla is a strong female character and a ...more
Scarlet Risque
This book leaves an impact on you. Oriental women look and behave like submissive little toys but they are not. They can whip your ass and surprise you. This book of fiction confirms what Chinese women are thinking behind closed doors and behind stage. It is accurate, and no nonsense. It's full of twists turns and seductive spells. I love it. I dream of the oriental fantasy magic scenes. It's pure fantasy like watching a Zhang Yimou movie. Highly recommended read into seduction, chinese style.
Angel Wu
Mar 05, 2016 Angel Wu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One word: terrible.

But it's not like Halo-terrible (remember that terrible fiction that Christian 16 year old wrote about a girl falling in love with an angel), it's more like, okay-you-tried-but-it's-terrible.
Paperback Dolls
Originally posted at

I was lucky enough to meet Mingmei Yip at the 2010 Romantic Times Convention in Columbus, Ohio. She was on a panel for multicultural creative writing along with L.A. Banks and Barry Eisler. From her very first description of her book, Peach Blossom Pavilion, I was hooked. Throughout the panel I learned many things about Mingmei Yip as a writer and a person. I learned that she is quite the Renaissance woman, having written adult and children’s books as well
Jun 01, 2012 Debbie rated it really liked it
In 1930’s Shanghai there’s a name for female spies, skeleton women and this is one of their stories although we will meet three altogether Camilla the singer, Shadow the magician and Rainbow the reporter, but the story is Camilla’s.
The streets of 1930’s Shanghai is no place for innocent girls, it’s dirty, it’s dangerous and it’s ripe with corruption and gang warfare. Camilla is far from innocent although it’s the most fitting of the many masks she wears. Camilla is a spy, a skeleton woman, pluck
Sep 12, 2012 Patty rated it liked it
Camilla is an orphan plucked from obscurity by Big Brother Wang, head of one of the biggest crime families in 1930s Shanghai. He trains her as a singer, contortionist and ultimately as his deadliest weapon against his enemy - the head of the largest crime syndicate that he is determined to destroy. Camilla is taught to live without emotion; she becomes a Skeleton Woman. A femme fatale. A woman who can reduce a man to nothing.

As she ascends as the Heavenly Songbird and yes, lover of the evil Mr.
Ashley Chen
Jul 10, 2012 Ashley Chen rated it really liked it
I have to say that the book didn't start out impressing me. The first two sentences bugged me a little. The punctuations were a little off, making the tone a little snobby. The prologue was quite repetitive. By that I mean Mingmei mentioned the same thing over and over again. It just made me a little frustrated since I already know the fact. Haha, you can tell that I am not a very patient person. It was hard to get into the book. I felt like I was left standing outside and not getting absorb int ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Charlene rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, review-request
Intrigue, suspense, cloaked motives, and an interesting insight to Chinese culture during the 1930s. This story pulled me in from the first page. Camilla, the ultimate skeleton woman, navigates the tricky path of performing her job as a spy of the Flying Dragons gang headed by Master Lung, vigilantly watching two other skeleton women who may cause her downfall, and dealing with two men who have fallen in love with her - one of which she might love back. It’s a plot full of complications, and Cam ...more
Wendy Hines
Jul 07, 2012 Wendy Hines rated it it was amazing
First, I want to gush about the cover of Mingmei's newest release. It's sexy, sophisticated and secretive. I absolutely love it!

Skeleton Women is what femme fatale's are addressed as in China. This is about three such women, Camilla, Rainbow and Miss Shadow. Camilla is the main character, an orphan who was adopted by organized crime and trained for one goal only - to kill Master Lung. She yearns for someone to love and to reciprocate but knows to get out of the gangster family, she either needs
Mandy Tanksley
I was really looking forward to reading this book because I LOVED Mingmei Yip's book "Peach Blossom Pavilion." Sadly, I was disappointed. "Skeleton Women" is centered around the life of the spy Camilla who spends the entire book trying to find a way to kill her patron Master Lung, a gangster. The writing was not as beautiful as in her other work and was very repetitive. I'm familiar with the setting and with "The Art of War," which is quoted from numerous times in the book (some quotes were used ...more
Jul 20, 2012 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Mingmei Yip is an excellent story teller! I love her books. Every character is beautifully written and the picture is perfectly seen. I have been reading romance books so this was a nice break but Skeleton Woman does have a little romance in it, a forbidden romance
The main character, Chamilla is a very talented, exquisite young woman who calls herself a skeleton woman but she also has many other talents. Talents which she uses to manipulate men into getting what she wants.
Her boss, Big Brother
Meghan Ruffin
Jun 17, 2014 Meghan Ruffin rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"Skeleton Women" the title of the book.... also refers to a women trained to manipulate powerful men, to gain secrets and insights into their worlds. The main character Camilla... born an orphan, but raised by a powerful man who ensures she is trained in espionage, etc... is actually a rather sad character. She lives her life as the talented songbird, adored by everyone who hears her voice... and yet, she has no life of her own. She cannot make friends, ... other than her music teacher.
I found h
Sep 25, 2012 Serena rated it really liked it
Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip is set in 1930s Shanghai when gang leaders are at odds over the foreign and domestic business, but in the shadows are skeleton women who can make men fall in love with them and be willing to risk everything for them, even their lives and fortunes. Heavenly Songbird Camilla is tied to the Flying Dragons boss Mr. Lung, but her agenda is more secretive as she seeks to fulfill her duties to a rival gang, the Red Demons and Mr. Wang. An orphan turned spy, she sings on st ...more
Jun 14, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
Skeleton Women is set in the ever-fascinating 1930s Shanghai. The heroine Camilla is a 19 year old singer/spy who is kept by one gangster boss to set up the hit of another gangster boss. In the mix are a femme fatale Eurasian magician and a cross-dressing gossip columnist.

Where else but in Shanghai, right?

The two gangster bosses are brutal, but a strong bodyguard and the Harvard-educated son of the targeted mob boss show Camilla the kindness and attention she's missed her whole life. Although I'
Jenn (Read Jenn Read)
Jul 22, 2012 Jenn (Read Jenn Read) rated it did not like it
received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads

7/4/12 -After 50 pages I am not sure if I can continue to read this. We'll see.

7/22/12- I tried to continue, but I just couldn't force myself to anymore. I should have trusted my instincts after the first 50 pages. The characters were flat, so was the plot. The author constantly repeated herself and explained things over and over. I felt like I was being beaten over the head with the same lines for the 150 page I was able to read. This was
Sep 18, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
While I didn’t necessarily feel a lot of suspense in Skeleton Women, and while I think a couple of parts of the plot should have been expanded upon, I enjoyed it quite a bit and I’m glad I read it. I like learning about other countries and cultures, and the ways in which people’s lives are different from mine–it helps me to better understand the world and it helps me to keep things in perspective. I’m definitely going to be looking into Mingmei Yip’s other books in the future.

Read my full review
A young woman is trained from childhood to be an assassin and a spy. She infiltrates one rival gang to help the other out, and becomes infamous in Shanghai as a skeleton woman, one who will cause many to die for her. I rather liked Camilla's POV, as she slowly came around to realizing she did have feelings and was not an automaton. I just wish there had been a bit more action -- I did not really care for any of the men, and wanted more with Rainbow Chang and Shadow the Magician. Ladies first, pl ...more
Aug 28, 2012 Lora rated it it was amazing
This novel speaks to the souls and hearts of women in all cultures. Mingmei Yip manages to juxtapose two images of the Chinese culture. The lovely referencing of cultural symbols, taboos and customs versus the harsh realities of being raised as a female orphan in a chinese gang culture; having to witness unspeakable atrocities and commit crimes to survive. The main character "Camilla" is simultaneously endearing, vulnerable and invincible. She is a positive symbol of hope that any woman can over ...more
Ana Dante
Sep 09, 2016 Ana Dante rated it it was ok
I can describe this book in a few short phrases. Observe:
Almost rape
Creepy contortionist rape, and
Extreme overuse of Chinese proverbs
Thank you!

This being said, I did enjoy this book... sometimes. If nothing else, it was an interesting idea for a novel. But when Camilla started using her damn proverbs so much she had to start repeating them, well, by that point I was losing my patience. I don't need to hear you say, "Stir the water to disturb the fish--benefit from creating chaos" or whatever
Dani Grim
Nov 19, 2013 Dani Grim rated it really liked it
It's been awhile since I finished this book, so my review probably isn't worth a great deal - I liked the book, but obviously wasn't overly enamored of it or would have been telling about it sooner. It has quite a bit of intrigue and sufficient character development. The writing was less captivating than Anchi Min and Lisa See. Good book - but I would recommend borrowing it rather than buying it. I don't think it ranks up there with the book I'll return to again.
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Mingmei Yip was born in China, received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University in Hong Kong. She's published five books in Chinese, written several columns for seven major Hong Kong newspapers, and has appeared on over forty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, and the U.S. She immigrat ...more
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