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review 2017-10-15 16:47
A Beautiful Poison
A Beautiful Poison - Lydia Kang

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

Loved the backdrop in this book. World War I (with the reader knowing it’s nearing its end... but not the characters). The dreadful influenza reaching American shores and starting a war all of its own. Socialites in their own little world, feeling the bigger world as an intrusion that may or may touch them (whether draft or flu). Murders in those ‘higher spheres’, with the reminder that with a little money, nobody will try and look further. The early times of another type of poisoning, too, for the girls who painted clock dials with magic glowing in the dark (if you haven’t done so yet, read The Radium Girls, it’s really interesting).

I liked the beginning well enough: an engagement party, one of the guests falling to her death on the stair, and it turns out the fall isn’t what killed her—poison did. This murder, more than the party itself, reunites the three main characters, who got separated four years prior to these events, due to various reasons, but mostly selfish ones, such as falling out of favour (God forbids your daughter keeps associating with the child of people who committed suicide, right, this is so vulgar and out of taste); and considering the latter, there’s no wonder this relationship is tainted, poisoned, from the start, simmering with both happiness at having friends back yet also with resentment and bitter memories. Which in turn made Allene, Birdie and Jasper unreliable narrators to the power of ten, because in a mystery with murders aplenty, they were part of the pool of potential culprits just as much as other people at the engagement party.

There was a lot of unhealthy tension in this book, because of the characters’ past, and because of other secrets that got revealed later. Although in a way, I liked it, I wasn’t too keen on how it all unfurled; the characters weren’t very likeable, but for me that wasn’t even due to their personalities (I can enjoy a ‘non-likeable’ character), more to the fact they were somewhat inconsistent with what was told of them at first. For instance, Allene is presented as loving chemistry, but this didn’t play as much of a part as I expected (mostly she still remained the socialite totally oblivious to the people around her, unless what affected those people affected her as well). Perhaps Birdie was, all in all, the most consistent of all. I’m not sure where the line was, that line that would’ve made me like these characters more; it just didn’t click with me here.

The narrative, I think, was also poised between too little and too much. Part of me wanted more of the setting (New York, descriptions, parties, how the flu claimed people—horrifying symptoms, and so many deaths), yet at the same time, the setting plus the murders didn’t mesh fully, and the plot felt too convoluted when nearing the end. And, of course, what’s happening to Birdie—as the author mentioned at the end (and I agree), historical accuracy demanded there could be no closure on that specific point, but this means that, well, either you already know about that bit of history, or you don’t, and it makes no sense. Tricky.

Conclusion: It was an OK read for me: mildly entertaining in general, but not a gripping mystery. Here I preferred the setting to the characters.

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review 2017-08-31 14:49
Uneven Book from Beginning to End
A Beautiful Poison - Lydia Kang

I think that this book was a bit all over the place for me to get a very good handle on. We have a lot of characters whose motivations we are not too sure of throughout the book. I think that Kang was trying for some tension to build about who was the murderer, but it was telegraphed at least to me pretty early about who was doing what. I will say that I was a surprised by the ending. I thought for sure that two of the characters were being set up to run away together, so that was a pleasant surprise.


Taking place during the Spanish Influenza in New York, we have a series of murders that revolves around three childhood friends: Allene, Jasper, and Birdie. At one time Jasper and Birdie were extremely close with Allene. But one day, Allene's parents sent Birdie and her mother away (they were companions to Allene's mother's family for generations) and then Jasper was "not our kind dear" when his family left him in financial ruins. When a member of their circle is poisoned, the three friends band together to find out who murdered this person and why. Pretty soon the body count starts to rise and you are left wondering if these three people really know each other at all.


I didn't have a favorite character to root for while reading this. Kang really does not try to develop any of the characters until almost the very end. Maybe it would have worked if she had given us a prologue to them as children all playing together. Instead we start in the middle of a story and we are left to just get that the three characters are friends and know each other so well. 


Also I have to say that Kang doesn't paint any of them very well. When you get to the end and get to the final reveal about a lot of people I ended up feeling very sympathetic to Birdie's mother of all people. 


The writing was okay, I just wish that there had been more there, there you know. I just found a lot of the bits about chemistry, cyanide, the Spanish flu to be boring. And that should have been the most interesting part of the story. 


The flow wasn't great. We kind of shuffle around to Allene, Jasper, and Birdie and back and forth again and again until the end. 


Even though the book takes place during the early 1900s, I didn't get a very good sense of New York during this time period. The author mentions clothes, how the young women behave, etc. But I really didn't get a true sense of the time period which was a shame.

As I already said the ending was a surprise so that was nice. 

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text 2017-08-31 01:47
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Beautiful Poison - Lydia Kang

This took me awhile to get through I just found it very uneven from beginning to end. I will give the author Kudos though for having an unexpected ending.

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text 2017-08-28 21:17
Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
A Beautiful Poison - Lydia Kang

If this doesn't pick up and I mean soon I am DNFing at 25 percent. Seriously bored. And think that the cover is more interesting than any of the characters I am reading about. Maybe it just threw me that three young adults (Allene, Jasper, and Birdie) are able to realize that a friend (or frenemy) who has just died was poisoned by cyanide. How you ask? Cause they can all smell it. Let's not forget though that only 20 to 40 percent of the population (I assume that's worldwide) can even smell cyanide. These three can.



And then there seems to be the fact that Allene is obsessed with her two friends and making sure that they never leave her. I just have no patience for this book right now.


I was hoping a book taking place in the Gilded Age in New York would be more interesting. No such luck. 



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url 2017-07-02 18:14
July Kindle Firsts (free ARC for prime members)
The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed [Kindle in Motion] - Scott Parazynski,Susy Flory
Little Boy Lost - J.D. Trafford
Secondborn (Secondborn Series Book 1) - Amy A. Bartol
A Beautiful Poison - Lydia Kang
Mrs. Saint and the Defectives: A Novel - Julie Lawson Timmer
Kings of Broken Things - Theodore Wheeler

Prime members get one of their choice free (not to borrow, the same as purchasing) ahead of release date.


Per usual, none mainstream published, all Amazon publishing imprints.


I seldom read memoirs, but I did select The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed  - Scott Parazynski,Susy Flory  

Source: www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/kindlefirst
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