Mini-reviews: “The Impossible Girl” and “A Beautiful Poison” by Lydia Kang

I’ve been reading book after book in the last couple of months, but have neglected writing reviews for them as usual. I’m going to rectify that starting with these two books that I’ll be reviewing in this mini-reviews post.

I read The Impossible Girl and A Beautiful Poison back in April when I was on my free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I enjoyed both of these two as they both appealed to the history nerd in me and the medical professional that I am. The crime mystery element weaved into these two books was another thing I really liked about these books.

Given all their similarities though, these two books stand well apart from each other. And me being me, might just prefer one over the other a little bit more.

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Title: The Impossible Girl
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens – dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts – a legend amnog grave robbers and anatomists – sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

This book was immensely interesting especially with all the medical bits and pieces thrown into the narrative. I ended up on an hour’s worth of research rabbit hole after this, reading more about resurrectionists and the history of anatomy (which was intriguing and gruesome and brow-raising at varying measures.)

But, more than the fascinating history of the time, it was the characters that got me. Cora was just such a strong main character. She’s wily, smart and cunning, but she’s also vulnerable, closed-off. Theo, while immediately appearing to be the opposite of Cora’s grey cloud personality, has secrets of his own. Together, these two form a formidable bond that had me rooting for them right until the very end.

This was a carefully crafted story full of twists and turns. The end actually took me by surprise in a good way. I never expected the ending to happen the way it happened, but when I finally got to it, I realized that it has been hinted to all throughout the book. It’s a testament to Lydia Kang’s subtle plotting, something that I very much appreciated.

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Title: A Beautiful Poison
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many vicims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned – and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her close to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone – even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

A Beautiful Poison was just as interesting as The Impossible Girl. Lydia Kang again uses her medical background and history – the Gilded Age this time – to create a vivid backdrop to her story.

However, I felt like the author just pulled on a bit too much in this one – looping in WWI, the Spanish Flu into this story’s collection of strings. I love plot twists like any other reader does but, with this one, it felt overdone, unnecessarily overcomplicated. It didn’t help that the relationship between the three main characters – Allene, Jasper, and Birdie – was already complex in itself. The three have their own agendas and constantly maneuvered over and around one another just so they get what they want simply because they want it. They aren’t exactly the kind of characters you’ll root for, and I didn’t. I, maybe, felt a bit of empathy but I didn’t care enough about them even after the book ended.

What kept me reading, however, is the mystery – the whodunnit part – that I think was still well done. Piecing together the clues dropped in between dialogues and scenes kept my mind turning. The final twist in this story was a total surprise.

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Both books, though classed as adult fiction, have great crossover appeal. Teens and young adults will just as easily love them. I definitely would recommend them to mystery and historical fiction readers.

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