Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Poison by Bridget Zinn

Poison by Bridget Zinn
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop
thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?


Kyra can come to my sleepover, IF she brings her potions kit

Kyra is the kind of main character I like, but don't LOVE. She's determined, loyal (to some), and prepared to do whatever it takes to do the right thing—even if it's heartbreakingly hard. So, MAJOR respect points.

She's also an awesome potions master, which is just flat out cool (just try to imagine how much more amazing a sleepover party would be with an actual potions master in attendance!). All the potions talk added about a million points to the book for the sheer "I wish that were real" factor.

But, Kyra's also prickly, and much as I do like prickly characters, her style of prickly made her a little hard to get close to. She's always pushing people away, which is a trait I don't tend to like, especially when the reasons are as thin and unexplained as Kyra's were. I don't like it when I start to roll my eyes and yell at the main character because I think they're behaving in unnecessary ways.

Kyra's first-person narrative voice did help me like her a lot more than I would have had this been written in third person. Her internal feelings and explanations prevented me from actually disliking her when she did things I didn't think she should. So those actions turned into a slightly annoying quirk of someone you know and love rather than something that full on annoyed me.

Kyra also loses a few points because she isn't a big animal lover. She's more of a grudging tolerator eventually evolving toward unadmitted liker. So, good, eventually, but not great. I just can't fully get on board with a character who hardens her heart to the charms of adorable animals.

Fluffy romance

It's sweet and it's sort of a slow burn hate-turned-love type of romance, but not quite. It's also totally the lite version of those types of romance. There were undeniably a handful of swoony moments and the banter was great (their initial meeting is darn near perfect), but the overarching vibe of the romance was more Jessica Day George style middle grade cute than swoooooony.

Which can be totally fine, just so long as you go into it expecting Jessica Day George style romance and not fainting-couch, be-still-my-heart, hand-fanningly hot swoon (and while I knew I wasn't going to be getting the latter—this IS a Disney book!—I was hoping for something a little more YA than MG, so cue my very mild disappointment).

With the exception of his name (Fred?? Sorry Harry Potter fans, I just can't swoon over that name!), he's a pretty great guy. He's funny, sweet, adventurous, and clever.

But...maybe he's a little *too* great. He's always so happy-go-lucky (gosh, I might even call him chipper) and while that's nice and all, I like my male leads to be a little sarcastic. I'd even go so far as to say I like them to be a little surly.

And manlier, definitely manlier. Fred is very boyish.

I also can't help but be disappointed by his niceness because that robbed me of the "hate" part of the hate-turned-love romance. Kyra definitely doesn't not fall for him right away and they DO have some fun banter, but this was a very one-sided hate. The whole thing lacked the combative spark I hope for.

Fred seemed mildly amused with Kyra's attitude and gamely tagged along with whatever she was doing. I also never truly understood why he loved her. He was charming and sweet to her from the beginning and his attitude toward her never really changed.

Was it love at first sight for him? If so, why? (and, if so, bummer. I am so NOT a fan of love at first sight, which is pretty much the antithesis of hate turned love).


While the friendship between Kyra and Princess Ari doesn't come close to a Ten Tissues on the Beaches Scale of Friendship, it IS a super sweet friendship and gets points for making me want to break into spontaneous hugging.

Their friendship added depth to Kyra and I found myself liking Kyra the best when she was with Ari. Kyra softened and loosened up a little whenever Ari was around. Putting Ari in Kyra's presence was like handing a puppy to a grumpy person and defying them to look into the puppy's little puppy face and try not to smile.

Not only that, but I truly felt for Kyra and her predicament as a result of this friendship. Kyra was trying to protect her kingdom, but her heart was breaking as a result. If I didn't see her friendship with Ari, I never would have been as emotionally invested in Kyra's plight as I was and I don't know that I would have liked her as much as I did.

Also, on the topic of friendships, who knew a pig could be so cute? I practically broke out into out-loud-awwws every time Rosie was mentioned.

Plot and all that

Everything moves pretty quickly with a little bit travel/questing, a little bit of mystery, and a little bit of back story. So, basically, most of my favorite plot elements. Everything reads very, very easy.

As in, take the time you would normally need to read a 288 page book and cut that time in half. Really. The chapters are short, the font is big, and it's super light reading.

The plot isn't entirely linear, taking a few trips down flashback lane. It was a little jarring and definitely hindered the momentum of the story, but it did help avoid info-dumps. Added bonus was how it fleshed out Kyra and the princess's friendship by showing instead of telling. This was VERY effective.

Most scenes ended up holding more significance than they at first appeared to and looped back around to tie in together at the end. Most of this was fantastic, though one connection seemed to come out of nowhere and I don't think it was really necessary.

Still, it was kind of neat, so I think I'd rather Bridget Zinn had spent more time fleshing this part out so it was less random and could have contributed even more to Kyra's character development (though I do recognize why this probably didn't happen).

It was all fun and kept me guessing throughout, but everything was almost a little *too* fast for me. I know, I know, I love fast-paced plots, but in this case the briskness felt rushed and under-developed. I wanted everything to be expanded just a little bit more. As it was, everything had a very sketched, outliney feel (though it's an outline for a fantastic book).

Where the star went 

That would be because of the writing. Wait, don't panic. The writing is fine. There aren't any grammatical errors or annoying similes or anything like that.

It's more that Poison felt like a draft that hadn't been fully fleshed out and finished yet. It made me think of Buffy's cookie dough analogy where she explains that she hasn't finished baking yet.

Let's forget for a minute that not-entirely-cooked-cookies are actually superior to the fully-cooked alternative and just go with it.

Poison is like Buffy's analogy. It's something really wonderful with the potential to be fantastic like warm, delicious cookies...when it's finally done baking. All the right elements are there: intricate plot, unique developments, crazy cool potions, intriguing mystery, and likable characters. It could have SO been a Special Shelf book.

But it's not done baking.

Bottom line

I had pined over Poison ever since I read the blurb and got those "This could be *THAT* book!" vibes. My hopes were SKY HIGH and I ended up having a lot of trouble reading Poison because of all my mixed emotions (I never want this to end! This is amazing! This is everything I've been looking for! No, no, I don't want to admit that this ISN'T *quite* everything I'd hoped it would be).

I was so torn that I actually put the book down at the halfway point and read a few books in between. Poison ended up being a book like To Catch a Pirate where I love it and will for sure own a copy and re-read it in that Special Shelf way, but it falls short of actually being a Special Shelf book.

When I re-read, I'll always have that little nagging feeling where my brain is trying to push the book into being what I feel it almost is, but isn't quite.

Still, I WILL re-read it and I wish the author were still alive to write more books because I would immediately add her to my Authors to Watch list. I'll also be pushing Poison on all sorts of people. Like, for example, fans of all these books:

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Poison that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Have you read Poison? What did you think?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spotlight List: My Favorite Fictional Men

You know when you attend a party for someone's birthday and you get to the required gift opening time and it's sort of a mix of awkwardness, boredom, and jealousy?

Well, everyone, consider this post the internet equivalent to that time. Minus the awkwardness and boredom, but plus hot men and still with LOTS of jealousy (because don't we all want to unwrap hot men on our birthdays?).

Yes, that's right, today is Ruby's birthday, and my present to her is a SECOND collection of some of my favorite fictional guys. (On loan, naturally. Click here to see the last year's gift of hot fictional men).

Use them well, Ruby. Use them well.

There's are so many wonderful men in this book that there's probably someone for everyone, but chief among them are the darkly mysterious Royce (he's an assassin!) and the pure-hearted swordsman Hadrian.

For me, it's Hadrian All. The. Way. He's a rough and tumble man's man, but his heart is set on leading a noble life protecting the innocent and upholding the rules of chivalry. He loves deeply and is unswervingly loyal.

The fact that I picture him pretty much exactly like the guy on the cover (on the left) doesn't hurt, either. (The guy on the right is Royce and is a TERRIBLE model choice. He looks too nice.)

Did you like Sage from The False Prince? Then you seriously need to introduce yourself to Gen. Gen is a master thief. He whines. He complains. He brags. He swaggers.

He's always fifty steps ahead of everyone around him, and twenty of those steps are deliberate missteps designed to get us all to play right into his hands until Gen finally decides to reveal what he's truly been up to all along.

And his romance? It's as complicated as he is, but it's so subtly sweet and even thinking about it breaks my heart into a million pieces and then glues them back together again with the power of their love.

Sure there might be two main love interests in this book, but only one was ever a real consideration for me: Choal. He's an uptight warrior with a sense of morality, best friend of the prince, and unfailingly loyal.

He doesn't exactly approve of Celaena, what with her being a notorious assassin and criminal and all. But, he's set to guard her and train her and you know what that means, right? Lots of sizzling hate-turned-love banter!

Their training sessions alone were enough to keep me breathless, but the tender scene with the ring or the heart-wrenching scene where he doesn't let her quit are the stuff made for re-reads.

The world of Angelfall may be a post-apocalyptic nightmare, but by gosh you can send me there in a heartbeat just so long as I can have Raffe as a traveling partner.

Sure, our time might be spent fighting off some of the most disgusting creatures I've ever read about, but getting to see his angel muscles ripple as he expertly swings his sword would make it all worthwhile.

And between the slaughter, there's banter! Lots of sarcastic, clever, funny, adorable banter! Even his non-verbal banter with Penryn is fantastic:

“'Leaking sacks of mutated maggots?' He raises his perfectly arched eyebrow as though I'd just failed my verbal insult exam."

Note the lifting of one eye-brow? As an essential characteristic of hot, sarcastic male leads everywhere, I rest my case.

Which hot fictional guy are you willing to loan Ruby on her birthday?

Have you read any of these books? 
Do you know any fictional men like them that I should drop everything to track down and read?

Be sure to check out Ruby's blog today and throughout the month of April for her April is Awesome event (there are lots of awesome author interviews, guest posts, and giveaways...including one from one of my Special Shelf authors!)

Ruby's Reads

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Books I got (11)

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for the past week or so.

For Review

The Glitter Trap
by Barbara Brauner

Fairy godmothers, magic, and humor? Can't go too wrong with that! This was a cute beginning to a series that should appeal to Goddess Girl fans.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

by Vivian Vande Velde

Vivian Vande Velde!!! I am a HUGE VVV fan! Lately she's been playing with fairy tale retellings, and I'm looking forward to seeing how she twists The Frog Prince with her wry sense of humor and less-than-perfect heroines. I'm reading this one now and loving it.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

Rebel Spirits
by Lois Ruby

I requested this one a while back after reading this in the blurb:

"Infused with history and mystery, this tale of ghosts, love, and murder takes place in present-day Gettysburg, where the Civil War still looms large."

Civil War? Ghosts? Mystery? Romance? YES PLEASE! 

Requested and received from publisher.

by John David Anderson

 The publicist at Walden Pond Press has impeccable taste (she highly recommended The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, so, yeah, case closed) so when she pitched Sidekicked I immediately said YES PLEASE!

In a world of superheroes, this book focuses on a side kick. I had already had my eye on it, but her endorsement sealed the deal for me. Then I got it and read the first (funny!) chapter. Yup, I think I'm going to LOVE this!
Pitched by publisher.

by Brigid Kemmerer

I haven't read the first two books in the series, but I've definitely been curious. My vague impression of this series is that it's paranormal and the focus is on a group of hot guys? I know that's kind of a thin plot, but, really, it's enough to pique my interest.

Has anyone read this series? Can I read it safely out of order?

Unsolicited review copy sent by publisher.

by Cindy Miles

A gothic ghostly romance set in a castle! Like Rebel Spirits, I'm not expecting incredible depth or anything like that. I'm hoping for something light, fun, and swoony like To Catch a Pirate (love!).

Requested and received from publisher.


Resenting the Hero
by Moira J. Moore

I actually bought this one unread because so many people were saying how good it was with the hate-turned-love romance and since I couldn't get it from any library, I finally caved and bought it new.

And...I'm kind of regretting that. I'm reading it now and while it's ok, I'm not in love with it yet. Maybe that will change? I'm only about 50 pages in so far, but the tone is a lot more adult urban fantasy (which I don't really like) than YA fantasy (which I love and was expecting).

The Riyria Revelations
by Michael J. Sullivan

I can't even express how much I adore this series! I read the series first through the library and then immediately went out and bought the whole series before I had even finished reading it. I'm trying to write my review now and it's hard to capture all my gushy love in mere words. Special Shelf series for sure.

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?

Also, I still have some Books To Trade available if anyone is interested!

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