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Digital audiobook performed by Catherine Ho.

Most people would consider Ava Wong a successful woman. A Chinese-American with a law degree from Stanford, a husband who is a brilliant surgeon, and an adorable toddler son, she is, apparently, living the good life. But Ava hasn’t used her expensive law degree in years, and she’s at her wit’s end trying to deal with her son’s increasingly frequent tantrums. Then she runs into her old college roommate, Winnie Fang. Winnie is from mainland China and hoping to finally get her green card. And that is why she needs Ava’s help. All Ava has to do is go to China (with her genuine USA passport) and buy some designer handbags for Winnie’s business. What could possibly go wrong?

This is an engaging, entertaining, twisty heist involving counterfeit designer goods, a scheme to trick high-end department stores out of money, and an ever-increasing number of lies told to everyone about what is really going on.

Winnie is a master manipulator. Clearly a sociopath with no moral compass other than what is good for Winnie. Ava is torn between her loyalty to her husband and son, the pressure of hiding her illegal activities, and her desire to feel as good as Winnie’s schemes make her feel. As their enterprise gets into trouble Winnie vanishes, leaving Ava to face the authorities on her own. Will she crack? Can she, alone, pull off one more scam? Should she betray Winnie to save her own skin?

Chen goes back and forth in time to tell this story, occasionally interrupting the chronological flow to give the reader a snippet of Ava’s interview with a detective. This device is handled brilliantly by Chen. Keeping the reader off balance and guessing about what will finally happen.

Catherine Ho does a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. She sets a good pace and I had little difficulty keeping the two women at the core of the story straight.
 
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BookConcierge | 23 andra recensioner | May 25, 2024 |
Perfect beach read! Quick, interesting, light.

The biggest flaw was that I had to keep digging out my phone to Google what the designer bags looked like.

Format is interesting - mostly told as a confession to a detective with some occasional flashbacks.
 
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hmonkeyreads | 23 andra recensioner | Jan 25, 2024 |
Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen is a thrilling heist ride with a medium-paced plot. The story is all about how a struggling mother's life changes after she meets her college friend. Ava's life is to be pity upon, as she is desperately trying to fulfill her roles as a mother and a wife. Winnie's entry changed the course of the story. The plot gives you an insight into the world of fake designer pieces, just like currency. I am definitely going to recheck my bags and purses after reading this book. Ava's character develops throughout the story, from a pitiful life to a conman.

This is my first time reading this author. The plot has that thrill to excite you from start to finish. The climax was just out of the world. I was not expecting this from Ava. But I felt that at some places the plot was dragged unnecessarily. Overall, the book is worth a one-time read.
 
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Sucharita1986 | 23 andra recensioner | Jan 22, 2024 |
3.5 stars.

Why do books without quotation marks bother me so much? I guess it feels like the people aren't having a conversation with each other or me.

Imagine after 20 years of not seeing your college roomie who you weren't even close with and who left early on in freshman year, and have had no contact with, finds you after 20 years. Ava knows it that this is strange. But things happen and Ava decides to help Winnie – bad move I know. Ava isn't a dummy by any means but she does it out of revenge and happens to be in Hong Kong and decides to “help” her. She tries to get out this scheme and tells Winnie as much, but gets deeper involved. Winnie is such a manipulator that Ava can't get out of it. The book is past and present at the same time where she is explaining to a detective how it was with Winnie.

The epilogue was a disappointment for me.

A fast paced book that I finished in two days.
 
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sweetbabyjane58 | 23 andra recensioner | Dec 2, 2023 |
Full review to come.
 
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bookforthought | 23 andra recensioner | Nov 7, 2023 |
Winnie and Eva were briefly roommates at Stanford but hadn’t been in touch for 20 years. Eva, an unhappy corporate lawyer married to a surgeon is raising Henry a wailing toddler. Life is unfulfilled. Enter Winnie her Chinese roommate who reads her unhappiness and easily recruits her into the buying of authentic LV and other name handbags and the returning fakes to the stores and selling the real ones on eBay. Lots of drama, soul searching and trips to China. They are both ladies who are cool in fraught situation. Fun to listen too.
 
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bblum | 23 andra recensioner | Oct 30, 2023 |
This book is perfect for summer reading and reminded me of Finlay Donovan. A lifetime ago two Asian American immigrants was roommates in college for only two short months. Only speaking twice in 20 years; having forged different paths of life. One, became an honest attorney through the guidance of strict parents, the other chose to live the American dream through her own ways.

These two women finding a way to make money off of luxurious fake handbags, also found much more about themselves that they never even thought imaginable.

Deliciously entertaining and I hope this dynamic duo returns for more.
 
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GeauxGetLit | 23 andra recensioner | May 27, 2023 |
A complete contrast to the book I abandoned just before reading this. Fresh and invigorating story. Learned a lot about things I never would have come in contact with (or cared much about personally) but it kept my attention and taught me a bit about fashion and haute couture, which I have no experience with. 2023 read.
 
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bookczuk | 23 andra recensioner | Apr 25, 2023 |
I thought the writing was good, but I didn't find myself exactly caring about the plot
 
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HCSimmons | 23 andra recensioner | Mar 11, 2023 |
Fun and exciting, with a good look at what it costs to simply exist.
 
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whakaora | 23 andra recensioner | Mar 5, 2023 |
Things I liked about this book; the unreliable narrater and the way the majority of the story is told through a police interview. Things I didn't like about this book; both the main characters were shallow and only interested in themselves. I had no empathy for either one and was hoping they would get caught. A fast and easy read. And if you know/like anything about designer handbags, you will likely be able to relate to the all the brands/models that are mentioned.
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LittleSpeck | 23 andra recensioner | Feb 18, 2023 |
One of those books that will keep you guessing, as you are not sure what it real and what is "counterfeit".
Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home—she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business—someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava.
I really got sucked into this one and all of it's twists and turns. For a modern day read that will keep you guessing and take you around the globe, give this one a read!
 
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debs4jc | 23 andra recensioner | Sep 21, 2022 |
A novel with a clever twist, Counterfeit by Kirsten Chen is an entertaining read.

“Now, looking back, I see all the things I got wrong, all my preconceived notions and mistaken assumptions…. But I’ve gotten carried away. Enough about me. We’re here to talk about Winnie.”

Written in an almost, but not quite, stream-of-consciousness style, Part I unfolds from the perspective of Ava Wong. In her version of events, related anxiously to a police detective, Ava claims to be a victim of her former college roommate Winnie Fang. While Ava, with her Ivy League education, a handsome successful husband and a young son, may seem to have had it all, she confesses, her life was a bit of a mess. She was therefore vulnerable when Winnie, once a ‘fobby’ (denouncing her as fresh off the boat) now beautiful, confident and wealthy, blackmailed Ava into becoming involved in the business of importing and selling counterfeit luxury goods.

It is a convincing tale of woe that provokes some sympathy for Ava, especially as it seems Winnie has disappeared and left her holding the bag, so to speak, and is the perfect set up from Chen for the revelations in Part II.

“I guess what I’m saying, Detective, is that Winnie convinced me that ours was a benign and victimless crime.”

I quite enjoyed learning about the counterfeit trade, though it only reinforces my opinion that the value assigned to designer gear is a spectacular rort. I agree in part that counterfeiting is a victimless crime, at least where it concerns the buyers, whose only injury is to their ego, not so much for the sweatshop workers though. The scheme the women run seems surprisingly simple if you are bold enough, and though not without its risks, it seems the financial rewards are high.

“Everyone has a price. The trick is figuring out what it is without overpaying.”

I thought the way the story turned on itself, more than once, was really quite clever. Chen occasionally leans into the western stereotypes surrounding Asians, but deliberately so I think, making a point about expectations and how Ava and Winnie used them to their advantage.

Though its subject is con artists and crime, Counterfeit is an easy, fun, stylish read.½
 
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shelleyraec | 23 andra recensioner | Sep 1, 2022 |
I don’t usually choose my books by recommendations from celebrities or book clubs (or both), but I’ve noticed that I enjoy quite a few of Reese Witherspoon’s recommendations. (I’ve also noticed that I tend to independently pick up good to read that Roxane Gay has reviewed – who knows, we could all be best book buds!) Anyway, what initially attracted me to Counterfeit was the cover – very striking, although is that just one big long earring in the woman’s ear or an Apple bag tag? All of this aside, Counterfeit is a unique read – think high end crime meets Sex and the City meets Crazy Rich Asians.

The story is told in the first person by Ava, about she met an old college friend who just happened to be running a business where high-end luxury handbags are bought, then returned using ‘superfakes’ – top quality fakes of the rarest, most sought-after designs and colours. The originals are then sold on. It’s a well-run scam and Winnie needs help. Ava is reluctant at first, but she’s bored of being a stay-at-home mum and has no desire to return to work. Her son is keen on throwing tantrums and not talking and her husband throws his life into his work. Isolated, what else can Ava do? Her one attempt at independence leaves her embarrassed and broke in Hong Kong, so she is practically forced to join Winnie. But both are good at what they do, no matter their motivation (Ava – get her son into a good preschool; Winnie – get her boss and former lover a liver transplant via Ava’s husband). The business readily expands. But then there’s a twist in the narrative. It turns out that Ava’s been telling all this to a detective and now it’s time to hear from Winnie. Who (if anyone) is innocent? Who is telling the truth?

The twist halfway through Counterfeit is undoubtedly its biggest strength, forcing the reader to reconsider everything they just read about Ava’s side of the story. Is she who she says she is? Reading about Ava’s recollection of events of a trip to China versus what Winnie recalls she was told is possibly the strongest part of the novel to sow the seeds of doubt. But overall, the crime is on the ‘lite’ side. If you enjoy reading descriptions of luxury handbags and the rarer, more expensive finishes, you will delight in reading some parts of the text. (But a LV defect? Never! But what a crucial part of the plot…) Other parts like using Asian women to be the ‘invisible’ couriers of returned goods sat awkwardly with me by the use of stereotypes. I also wonder at the looseness of the American returns system – it seems like you could return anything for any reason without any scrutiny – and how much of a role it could play in a scam like this.

I found Counterfeit to be light and fun overall despite the above points. The last part dragged out a little with a super speedy epilogue, but this would be a good holiday or midweek read.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com
 
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birdsam0610 | 23 andra recensioner | Aug 27, 2022 |
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (William Morrow) for promotional purposes.

This was such a fun and clever story!

First off, I have always loved luxury goods, especially handbags so the premise of this book was right up my alley.

Plot-wise, the twist halfway through was so smart and I did not see it coming. As soon as I got to the twist, I thought to myself, “This book is brilliant.” I won’t say much about the twist but I will say that it kept the book interesting.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. It’s very effortless and flows well. It made the book an easy and smooth read.

The book also had some relatable quotes about being Asian American. For example at one point Ava reflects, “Asian families are different from white families. We don’t talk the way you all do. I mean, we talk, of course we talk, but not about our fears, our pain, our deepest, darkest secrets” (pg. 211). As an Asian American I find this quote to be so true. My (Asian) family talks, but it’s definitely not anything deep or soul searching. There is a lot of repression happening.

I found that this book would make a great movie. I hope it gets adapted one day because the luxury handbag aspect would make for a very stylish film.

Overall, I recommend this book to readers who love designer bags. Also, it gave me some Crazy Rich Asians vibes, so if you like that book, you’ll probably like this one.
 
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oddandbookish | 23 andra recensioner | Aug 9, 2022 |
This is a great book with a sneaky twist that I truly didn't see coming. Both characters were written with just the right amount of sweetness (Ava) and evil/bitchiness (Winnie), just the right touch of. I'm not going to delve into the prejudice issues. I'll let others deal with that. I just loved these very shallow-seeming characters, and the end floored me.

This was an extremely fast read (if you love the book) and was only 271 pages. I loved learning about the high-end bag business, and learning about how counterfeits may be made was eye-opening. I'm glad I love my cheapie bags!

Perfect for a beach read or long flight.
 
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Cats57 | 23 andra recensioner | Aug 7, 2022 |
Part I
Ava is a gullible naive characters that fell for the lies of her college friend Winnie and was caught up on a counterfeit scheme.
Part II
All that is a lie.

This was and adventure reading at the beginning of part II I didn't know what to believe, is this the tale of one woman against the other?
The truth is far from it. Despite looking like a whinny person Ava is ambitious and is willing to do what it takes to get the life she deserves. Winnie is a less developed character. In my opinion it's a pity to have so little insight into Winnie.
Overall, it was a good premise for the story, great characters and stellar writing.
 
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dmareena | 23 andra recensioner | Jul 17, 2022 |
suspense fiction - enormously lucrative fraud scheme involving high-quality faux designer purses.

This was recommended to me by a friend who loves fast-paced reads by diverse authors.
 
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reader1009 | 23 andra recensioner | Jun 30, 2022 |
I was predisposed to like this. I spent years as a lawyer focused on brands. In addition to negotiating manufacturing contracts in China I did anticounterfeiting work. I spent a LOT of time in Shenzhen. And also I am a person who stopped practicing law not long after becoming a mom and who had to acknowledge that I did not want to be a lawyer for reasons having nothing to do with being a parent. It has been a lot of years since that was my life but there still there should have been a lot to relate to here in this story of a lawyer who "took a break" from practicing law to parent and had to come to grips with the fact that she was dreading returning to practice -- and who ended up becoming part of a luxury counterfeiting ring operating between the US and China.

And yet...I did not like this. To start, I did not think the writing was particularly good. The bigger issue though was that I don't think Chen knew what she wanted to say. It is hard in one story to take on the patriarchy, American exceptionalism, inauthentic authenticity (see e.g. most everything on Social and of course the bags), tech bro "ethics", consumer culture, the way in which we in the West make villains of the Chinese businesses that thrive by ignoring intellectual property rights when in fact most counterfeits were historically made at the behest of Westerners for purchase by Westerners. (Though at this point Chinese businesses and purchasers have beaten us at our own game.) And then that gets blended with the 30-something lament of women who did all the right things, went to the right schools, got the jobs our parents wanted us to get, married the right person, had the healthy though imperfect children, and then found ourselves trapped in a world we hate because we met everyone else's expectations and never created expectations or goals of our own. Chen tries to pack all this in, but the whole things collapses under the weight of her vision and her indecision and her mediocre prose.

Postscript: By coincidence I was reading this side-by-side with Nightbitch (so far it is much better though still flawed) which are both books which start with well-educated women who leave the workforce to parent and become less than desirable beings as the struggle with the dissonance of having a developed brain and then being expected to easily adapt to the brainless work of early stage child-rearing (they try to make it an intellectual pursuit, but its not.) This is a subject near and dear to my heart, and I think there is more to be written here, but I have to say that both of these books are insanely whiny and privileged. I don't usually call books out for that, I am whiny and privileged so that would be unbecoming, but even to my eyes this was off-putting.
 
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Narshkite | 23 andra recensioner | Jun 28, 2022 |
I've been hearing really good things about Kirstin Chen's new novel, Counterfeit. I happily earmarked for my summer listening list.
"Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home - she’s built the perfect life."

Uh huh, it looks like the perfect life, but from the inside looking out - not so much. When Winnie Fang, an old schoolfriend, gets in touch, Ava gets caught up in her business. What business you ask? Counterfeit high end handbags.

Now, I must admit, luxury, 'big name' purses and bags are not something I would want or pursue. I found Chen's descriptions of those that do and the manufacturing of legit and not so legit bags quite fascinating. (And sit peaks to consumerism in a big way)

We meet Ava in part one of the book as she is recounting her story to a police detective. So, from that we know that something has gone wrong in 'the business'. I've gotta say it - I wasn't sure how I felt about Ava. She's unhappy with her husband. Her young son is a bit of a challenge, but it is the nanny who can calm him best. She's is still trying to live up to her family's expectations, even though she is in her thirties. In part two, we get to know Winnie a bit better as she is given a voice. She's a skilled manipulator and a clever thief. I'm going to leave things there to avoid spoilers. Except...the ending isn't quite what I had predicted!

That being said, there are some themes woven in the story as well - racism, cultural, social strata, parenthood, marriage and more.

I chose to listen to Counterfeit. The narrator is award winning Catherine Ho. She's got a pleasant, modulated voice that's easy on the ears. She speaks clearly and at a good speed. Discernable voices for each lead character were used. She interprets and presents Chen's work very well. Emotions, situations and actions are brought to life with her voice matching what's happening in the book. Counterfeit is a great summer, beach worthy listen.
 
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Twink | 23 andra recensioner | Jun 27, 2022 |
Is it real or a fake?

With Winnie you couldn't tell, but beware it IS a fake.

Winnie and Ava had met in college and hadn't seen each other for twenty years. Why did Winnie contact Ava after all of these years?

Ava found out what Winnie wanted, and she couldn't resist. She could use this extra money to help her son with his delayed speech and tantrums.

What Winnie reconnected with Ava for was to help her run a high-end purse scam.

We meet Ava as she is telling the story to a detective since they were caught. Well...Ava was caught...Winnie took off.

COUNTERFEIT made me a bit nervous, and I felt nervous for Ava since she was a lawyer.

If you are in the mood for something different and also in the mood for a book that will make you wonder if the purse you have is real or fake, you will enjoy this book.

The ending has a big surprise, but it was just an ok read for me. 3/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
 
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SilversReviews | 23 andra recensioner | Jun 10, 2022 |
Which is real? Which is fake? I’m not just talking about the bags. Read my full review here.½
 
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joyblue | 23 andra recensioner | Jun 8, 2022 |
Counterfeit by Kirsten Chen is a 2022 William Morrow publication.

Ava is unsatisfied with the way her life has turned out. Her husband is a doctor who work constantly, while she gave up her dull career to be a stay-at-home mom, to Henri, who appears to have some developmental issues.
Enter Winnie, a former college student Ava was friends with at Stanford. When Winnie contacts Ava, Ava is curious to know what she could want because they haven’t been in touch for twenty years. As it turns out, Winnie has a little enterprise going which involves knockoff designer handbags, and she easily lures Ava into the con with her. The two Asian women not only renew their old friendship, but become well-polished grifters- and partners in crime.

It looks as the game is over as we learn very early on that Ava spilling her guts nameless detective as Winnie is currently MIA.

Will Ava go to jail? What will become Henri, or her marriage? And what about Winnie? Will she leave Ava hold the bag- so to speak?

This is a short, rather addictive caper style novel. While one could analyze it to death, thus ruining all the fun, but I decided to stick with the entertaining aspects of the book, instead. While I had some issues with some of the particulars of the con, and I wondered about the messaging a little, but I think it was meant to be a clever, entertaining frolic and from that angle the novel succeeds admirably.

Overall, a crafty and entertaining crime caper, with a nice surprise ending.

3.5 stars½
 
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gpangel | 23 andra recensioner | Jun 4, 2022 |

Kind of like Sophie's choice ... a mom has to choose only one out of her two kids to take with her. She's racked by guilt and scrambles to find a way to bring her young daughter across the border.

I really thought I would hear more from Ah Liam, the son who started the chain of events by reporting his grandmother breaking a portrait of Mao. We get so many viewpoints that each of their stories felt like they needed more time to develop.

Especially the ending. Did the author run out of time and just write a quick chapter to "tie" things up at the end?



 
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wellington299 | 2 andra recensioner | Feb 19, 2022 |