ARC REVIEW: Opium And Absinthe – by Lydia Kang

Title: Opium And Absinthe
Author: Lydia Kang
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: July 1st 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 3rd 2020
Pages: 379

“A vampire was shackled, it seemed, to the lusts and needs of his body. Tillie, too, felt her world as a closed casket, always around her, always constricting her.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit that it was cover love at first sight when I saw Opium And Absinthe, but I was completely sold as soon as I read the blurb. I’ve enjoyed Lydia Kang‘s books, including The Impossible Girl, in the past, and another historical setting with a medical twist sounded simply fantastic. On top of that, Opium And Absinthe promises to present us with a fantasy/horror retelling element involving Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, which had me even more excited. I know I’m basically allergic to vampire stories, but I did actually enjoy the original Dracula classic and I have to say that I really liked how Lydia Kang decided to incorporate this element into her story. It definitely ended up being one of the things that stood out for me!

That said, despite having high expectations for this story, somehow it didn’t work as well as I thought it would for me. I’m struggling to point out exactly why, but I’ll try to explain below. Part of the reason probably has to do with the slow pace as well as a bit of a repetitive plot with surprisingly dull moments. The slower pace made it harder to stay focused, and the lack of surprises and dull moments didn’t help either of course. I know that the book is set in 1899 and things were different back then (I actually enjoyed those historical descriptions), but the plot was just too repetitive and dull for me and it didn’t manage to engage me as I thought it would.

I also struggled with the constant repetition of the opium, morphine and even heroin use as well as the focus on just how dependent the main character Tilly becomes on it as it starts taking over her life and actions. While in a way realistically portrayed, I felt like it was turned into too much of a cliche and I didn’t feel like I was able to get to know the character too well due to this focus on Tillie’s spiralling addiction and the other characters both reacting to and fomenting said addiction. The characters themselves are not likeable at all (with the exception of Ian maybe) and as a result I struggled to connect to them. The main focus is on Tillie, and I found her to be too frustrating to really care for her and once again I found the focus on her substance abuse to be too much of a cliche and it took away the focus from more interesting elements such as the investigation into Lucy’s death, the medical details and the vampire element.

I confess that I saw most of the plot twists coming from a mile away, although I did manage to stumble upon one or two surprises. This wasn’t enough to make up for the things that didn’t work for me though. I liked the historical setting, the Dracula element and the investigation into Lucy’s death as well as the medical details… But the slow pace, the repetitive and sometimes dull plot and constant focus on the substance abuse instead of a proper focus on character and plot development ended up being mostly a letdown for me.


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WWW Wednesdays #276 – July 8th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I was in the mood for a cute contemporary so I decided to finally pick up my TBR jar pick Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend by Katie Finn. I’ll also be starting the third Detective Jane Phillips book Deadly Vengeance by OMJ Ryan for the upcoming blog tour…

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (4/5 stars) REVIEW 27/07
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour!!

2. Opium And Absinthe by Lydia Kang (3/5 stars) REVIEW 12/07
I admit that it was cover love at first sight when I saw Opium And Absinthe, but I was completely sold as soon as I read the blurb. I’ve enjoyed Lydia Kang‘s books, including The Impossible Girl, in the past, and another historical setting with a medical twist sounded simply fantastic. I liked the historical setting, the Dracula element and the investigation into Lucy’s death as well as the medical details… But the slow pace, the repetitive and sometimes dull plot and constant focus on the substance abuse instead of a proper focus on character and plot development ended up being mostly a letdown for me.

3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (5/5 stars) REVIEW 19/07
I already knew Dear Martin was probably have an impact on me after all those raving reviews, but I was blown away by just how much it hit the mark and left me reeling. This is such an important, powerful and absolutely heartbreaking debut and helps educate us just how real the American race problematics are even to this date. In the light of recent events, Dear Martin is even more of an eye opener and I cannot thank the author enough for getting Justyce’s story out in the world.

4. Entre Senderos De Lavanda by Mariela Gimenez (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 25/07
I read this book as part of the Masa Critica Argentina program through Babelio, and I had an excellent time with this story! It’s a contemporary romance read set in France with a wonderful cast of characters. I really enjoyed the building up of the different relationships despite the appearance of the love triangle, and I think this has to do with the fact that a lot of the focus is on familiar relationships as well as self discovery too. I wasn’t going to post a full review on my blog at first, but as I prefer writing my reviews in English first anyway before I translate them to Spanish, I decided to put it on my blog too in case someone is interested in a Spanish read.

5. The Cry Of The Lake by Charlie Tyler (2/5 stars) REVIEW 21/07
I admit that it was cover love at first sight for me, but I liked the sound of the blurb too… Sadly, I wasn’t too convinced by the story itself. The three different POVs didn’t complement each other but distracted instead, the plot itself felt too chaotic and unrealistic and I couldn’t warm to the writing either. The lack of information was confusing instead of adding the intended dose of suspense, and the characters themselves didn’t feel realistic and were hard to like. All in all not the experience I was hoping for.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I need to make my way through my August ARCs ASAP as we have started a huge home improvement/DIY project and once the painting/cleaning phase of the project arrives I probably won’t be having any free time/energy left to read. xD First up are two thrillers: Save Her Soul by Lisa Regan and Echoes Of Guilt by Rob Sinclair. I’ll probably take a break from ARCs in between with Fruit Of The Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras as I’ve been dying to read it… And I have a new TBR jar pick! Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. I can’t say I’ve had this one on my radar lately, and I’m not sure how long it will take to actually read it as I have a pile of other books I want to read first, but we’ll see how things go I guess.


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