Cover Image: Poison for Breakfast

Poison for Breakfast

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Member Reviews

I ate up the Baudelaire books as quickly as I could get them from the library while I was in grad school- not the target age demographic, but they were the perfect foil for my English lit courses in that they were funny, short, pithy, and macabre. Practically perfect in every way. This slim little book meets all those adjectives, but is also pure philosophy- which is a nice foil for where I am now (grad school again, only this time as a 40 year old with a family). I thought this short but well-crafted novel is fascinating, and it straddles the line between target ages. Sophisticated and interesting for grownups, but funny and surprising for youth. My school book club might enjoy it, and I know I loved dipping back into Snicket's world.
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Many thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC — an acronym meaning electronic advanced reader copy — in exchange for an honest review. 

In this story, Lemony Snicket begins his day like any other, enjoying his breakfast of 
with honey
a piece of toast 
with cheese, 
one sliced pear, 
and an egg perfectly prepared 
then finds a note saying “you had poison for breakfast”. 

I am new to the writings of Mr. Snicket and found myself confused in the beginning, especially the side stories — which here I mean stories that are told alongside the main story. In order to process the story and differentiate the main storyline from the side stories, and make meaning of the connection between the main and side stories, I took many breaks before reopening the pages to continue. 

As the story progressed, I found myself following the story with much more ease and fluidity and eager to continue to the end to solve the mysteries of (1) what was poisoned, (2) where did it come from, and (3) how long until death? 

Lemony takes the reader on a journey retracing his steps, visiting the source of each breakfast item investigating any inkling of foul play — here meaning the checking and interviewing of potential food items and persons to determine whether or not a possibility of intentional or unintentional poisoning may have occurred. 

What stood out to me in this mystery was the philosophical considerations of life and death and what it means to live a life well lived. 

“We must try, all of us, a lot of the time, our best, and we must keep trying. We do not understand anything but we should try our best to understand each other.”
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‘Poison for Breakfast’ by Lemony Snicket (Liveright, Aug. 31, 168 pages, $17.95)

Yes, this is book for the non-child by that Lemony Snicket. In fact, ignore those who would tell you this book is for those 13-18. In theory it might be (the grade level works out to 5th-9th graders), but it’s only for those ages in the way that books such as “The Little Prince” are for teen readers. And indeed, the comparison to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic is not by accident. Snicket may actually have crafted a classic of his own. Centering on the life of single day in the life of Lemony Snicket, this brief story (note: Snicket considers the book as his first nonfiction title; debate the category as you will) begins with a enigmatic note (“You had poison for breakfast”) and evolves into a winding series of clues about the message itself. Snicket’s voice as narrator is clever and witty and will be familiar to those who have read “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but here takes on a deeper tone in a “book about bewilderment, a word which here means not having the faintest ice what is going on at any given time.” The perfect size for stocking stuffers, you’ll want to share this one after a single reading.
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(3.5 out of 5 stars.)

While on the surface, "Poison for Breakfast" looks like Snicket's past books, it bears little in common with them. "Poison for Breakfast" is not a mystery novel, even though there is a mystery at the heart of the story. Instead, it's a leisurely stroll through Snicket's thoughts on various topics - including how best to prepare an egg, various philosophical ideas, and the very concept of literature. Fans of Snicket's voice will adore the book. But those looking for a mystery with a bit more meat on its bones should, perhaps, look elsewhere.

The premise of "Poison for Breakfast" is simple, a word which here means "easy to understand". (I promise that's the only time I'll make that joke.) One morning, Lemony Snicket finds a note on the ground. And on that note is a message: "you had poison for breakfast". But who sent the note? And how did they know he'd been poisoned? So, Snicket quickly sets about solving this mystery. Step one: figure out how he was poisoned. Step two: figure out who poisoned him and why. And step 3: figure out how to stop the poison before it kills him. His investigation takes him to a tea shop, a honey seller, a library, and more, each step hopefully bringing him closer to solving the mystery of his poisoning. All in all, the basic properties of an enjoyable mystery - complete with a very Snicket-esque solution.

However, despite what the premise suggests, "Poison for Breakfast" isn't really about solving the mystery of who poisoned Lemony Snicket. Sure, that's the frame from which the novel hangs, but it's not the main idea of the piece. Instead, Snicket uses the novel to work through a bunch of bigger ideas. He expounds upon his own philosophical beliefs - discussing how he feels we should treat one another, all of the unanswerable questions about life, and most importantly, the wonders of literature. In fact, I'd describe this book as more of a love letter to the concept and inherent power of literature than a murder mystery.

Snicket's books have always, in part, been love letters to literature as an art form. And that remains true here, perhaps even more so. Multiple chapters recount anecdotes about stories Snicket remembers, and the lessons they've taught him. However, all of this philosophizing doesn't amount to much until the story's very end, where it only kind of coalesces. It all feels very nebulous, as though it's more of a stream-of-conscious monologue than a story. And while this can be entertaining, it also grows a bit grating. To be fair, Snicket explicitly says the book is going to be bewildering, and he makes good on his word. But this bewilderment comes at the cost of well-explored themes. And without those well-explored themes, all of these tangents feel a bit listless. And maybe that's the point, but I'm not sure it works.

Now, whether any of that bothers you is largely gonna depend on what you're hoping to get from the book. When viewed in the context of Snicket's other books, "Poison for Breakfast" stands out like a sore thumb. It has next-to-no connections with any of his previous books, outside of a handful of very veiled references. In fact, the character of Lemony Snicket, himself, feels wholly disconnected from the Snicket character of the "A Series of Unfortunate Events" novels. But, to be fair, the marketing for "Poison for Breakfast" states it's a stand-alone story. So, one shouldn't really expect it to tie into a series it never promised to tie into. But still, if you see "Lemony Snicket" on the cover, you might expect more of a connection than you'll get.

The bigger problem for Snicket fans will be the book's structure. "Poison for Breakfast" focuses very little on its plot. The pacing is painfully slow at times, robbing the novel of any sense of urgency. And the frequent tangents often feel circular, as though there's no real point to them other than to fill up space. Fans who enjoyed the plots of Snicket's past work will likely feel quite disappointed. However, fans of Snicket's prose will have a great time. While the previously mentioned tangents decimate the novel's pacing, they are quintessential examples of Snicket-prose. Full of the classic wordplay, snark, and insight that long-time fans will be hoping for. If your idea of a good time is a novel solely comprised of Snicket's asides from the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books, then "Poison for Breakfast" will thrill you to no ends.

As for me, I fall somewhere in between. "Poison for Breakfast" may be a quick read, but it's not one I'd recommend reading quickly. Its meandering nature can sometimes make it hard to fully follow what's actually being said - unless you deeply enjoy such stories. I, generally, do not. I'd have preferred something that hewed closer to the style of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" - a well-defined mystery with all of Snicket's tangents and diversions sprinkled on top. But "Poison for Breakfast" offers the reverse of this. Now, it's not all bad. The ultimate solution to the mystery is a rather clever one, especially in the context of Snicket-style twists. And much of the journey is quite enjoyable while you're on it. But it just wasn't quite what I'd have liked it to be. If you're looking for something that hews closer to Snicket's past work, you'll likely feel the same. But if all of this sounds right up your wheelhouse, then "Poison for Breakfast" is a must-read. If nothing else, it's certainly a Lemony Snicket book.

(My review will go live at the attached link on publication day.)
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I love Lemony Snicket, but this one was a little more difficult to get through. It's short and fun, but still feels long at times. I will say, however, that Snicket's humor and sarcasm is splattered across the pages and it was wonderful! This book was sort of like a mindless rambling mixed with A Series of Unfortunate Events and a touch of existential crisis. I loved the general theme and philosophy that was apparent, I just couldn't get into the story itself. Perhaps I need to read this book when I am not stressed because then I can truly devour and enjoy it as I think it's meant to be enjoyed.
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I liked but didn't love the book as I was reading through it. I found the mystery of the story to be only moderately interesting, but found the prose to be so sumptuous and lovely that I knew I wouldn't be disappointed in the story. The reveal at the end made the book a 5 star one for me. This Lemony Snicket story is about writing and storytelling and would be a fascinating book to explore with my more advanced students. I highly recommend anyone read this, but I highly recommend you're patient and stick it out to the end.
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This was a difficult book to read because it's an adult book but written in Snicket's trademark style (a phrase here which means filled with somewhat annoying parenthetical comments).  That aside, the search Snicket undertakes to find out what poison he ate during his breakfast is filled with fun facts and a stream of thoughts that feel quite real, should anyone be unlucky enough to (like Snicket) be told that they'd eaten poison for breakfast.  I'd actually shelve this where teens who read the Series of Unfortunate Events and loved Snicket's style can find it: there's nothing that they couldn't read here.

eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley.
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I was provided a free copy of this text by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This was a strange, fun little book. As a lover of Snicket's series of unfortunate events, I already knew that nothing about this novel or author is going to be normal. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
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Thank you W.W. Norton & Company and NetGalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for a review, 

I want to keep this one short because if you know Lemony Snicket then you know what magic is in this book for you. It's got the same dry tone, the same surprises that manage to be surprising though they are the same, and the same eerieness as if he's been sitting next to you watching you and writing down this story just for you. Lemony Snicket is, if I am honest with myself, who made me want to write. The things he does with stories still astounds me and though this is short and manages to be not to the point but also exactly to the point is just classic him. 

5 stars.
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"A new stand-alone adventure - appropriate for all ages - by Lemony Snicket, one of the twenty-first century’s most beloved authors.

In the years since this publishing house was founded, we have worked with an array of wondrous authors who have brought illuminating clarity to our bewildering world. Now, instead, we bring you Lemony Snicket.

Over the course of his long and suspicious career, Mr. Snicket has investigated many things, including villainy, treachery, conspiracy, ennui, and various suspicious fires. In this book, he is investigating his own death.

Poison for Breakfast is a different sort of book than others we have published, and from others you may have read. It is different from other books Mr. Snicket has written. It could be said to be a book of philosophy, something almost no one likes, but it is also a mystery, and many people claim to like those. Certainly Mr. Snicket didn’t relish the dreadful task of solving it, but he had no choice. It was put in front of him, right there, on his plate."

Yes, I do claim to like mysteries.
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Snicket/Handler's signature method of writing will not disappoint, nor will his meditations on seemingly innocuous objects he comes across one morning after the eponymous breakfast. 

I was not expecting a philosophy book. Is it a book where nothing happens, or is a journey where someone loses something? Snicket asks himself these questions. There are things we love, and death, and meaning. There are birds and pears. 

Recommended for 
Folks who are daunted by the length of Ducks, Newburyport 
Readers of notes at the end of the chapters

It's not a book for young children.

3.4/5 - but I will mull over portions of this book so it may go higher
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Thank you so much, NetGalley, W. W. Norton & Company and Liveright, for the chance to read and review this book!

This story, as true as Lemony Snicket himself, begins with a note under his door: You had poison for breakfast. Trying to understand what exactly happened and how, Lemony Snickets starts to follow clue and solve the mystery, beginning a very peculiar journey.

In his unique writing style and voice, Lemony Snicket wrote a weird, interesting and funny new book. In an almost stream of consciousness the author thinks about the proper way to prepare an egg, books and writing and ideas, stories and their powers, strangers and encounters, swimming in the sea and habits, following clues and investigating this puzzling note. Lemony Snicket talks about phylosophy and books, ideas and thoughts, animals and people, in an encompassing and, often puzzling, story, thinking about bewilderment and not knowing anything and discovering new things, about kissing and meeting, about dying and living.

I loved reading this book and the author has a very unique way to capture my attention, with his words and ideas, his thoughts and journeys and in this peculiar journey I was bewildered, I laughed and I enjoyed everything.
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While reading this book, I had a difficult time trying to decide who exactly this wonderful, strangle little book is for. And then after I read it and was intrigued by it and started it all over again, decided that it felt like it was just for me. 

The Bad Beginning was published when I was 8 years old. I got it at the Scholastic Book Fair when it was first published after being intrigued by the summary. I don't think its an exaggeration to say that that singular event, the publication of the Bad Beginning, changed the course of my life. Sure, I was only 8 years old, but that book opened a doorway to my soul in ways very few books ever have. I decided to become a librarian as a result of the portrayal of librarians in those books. I love things that are dark and twisty and strange. ASOUE gave me so much. I will never hesitate to pick up any book with Lemony Snicket's name on the cover, and I still turn to ASOUE like it's my favorite worn security blanket. And Mr. Snicket's close friend Daniel  Handler is also a genius. 

Poison for Breakfast feels like the conversation I wish I could have with Lemony Snicket. It feels like getting a peek behind the curtain into his genius brain. It was a comfortable space to learn about what makes him tick. It is philosophy, sure. But it also feels like you're taking a walk and having a conversation with a very dear friend, assuming you've known Mr. Snicket for any length of time. I loved the literary allusions in this book too. Before I realized there were notes in the back, I used all of my librarian skills to discover the books he's talking about because that is one of my favorite things to do while reading anything from Mr. Snicket. It was lovely. I think this is a book for people who are familiar and love his other work. The whole thing made me smile and think and I loved it. I plan to add this one to my personal collection so that I can turn to it as often as I do his other work.
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This is a clever book that I enjoyed reading as a previous reader of the Series of Unfortunate Events, but I'm not sure what they mean by a book for all ages. I wouldn't necessarily give this book to a child who is currently reading SoUE, and I'm not sure teens would find this philosophical stuff interesting. I hope this book finds its readers.
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I received an electronic ARC from W. W. Norton & Company through NetGalley.
Part philosophy, part memoir, all pure Lemony Snicket. Readers experience a day with Snicket after he finds a note that says he has been poisoned for breakfast. He narrates the story and weaves vocabulary through as is usual. However, the subject matter tilts more toward an adult read than middle grade level. Snicket invites readers in and shares information about his life including one more twist to complete the book. If you appreciate Snicket's series, you will definitely enjoy this stroll through his thought and actions of the day. The pieces seem random at first but connect and bring the reader full circle by the final pages.
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Lemony Snicket returns in this whimsical stream of consciousness book that weaves in philosophy.  Snicket once again brings his signature wit to this book as he muses on life, death, and writing.  For Snicket fans, this will be another great read.  For others, it may be a little too out there, especially since it doesn’t have much of a plot.
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Have you ever wished you could recapture the way you felt when reading the Series of Unfortunate events books for the first time? Well here you go. Poison for Breakfast is Lemony Snicket's last rumination on a day. You have poison for breakfast, so the note says. What do you do next? This day-in-the-life novel is short, full of Snicket's signature wit and vocabulary, and will make you want to move to a small village and solve a crime against yourself.
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In this short and amusing novel, immediately after eating breakfast, Snicket receives a note telling him he's had poison for breakfast and sets about investigating the contents of his meal.
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Some will like this little book more than others, but I think it can be well summed up in this one line: "It is as if enormous philosophical questions are not designed to be answered at all, but just to make you think."  And I, for one, like those kinds of questions and those kind of books!  Featuring Lemony Snicket's trademark style, I love that his allusions, references and winks are all explained in notes at the back.  And a thank you to Mr. Snicket for his warm description of libraries and librarians.  I have been fortunate enough to hear Daniel Handler speak at a library conference, and he brought a tear to my eye there, too.  I hope everyone gets a chance to feel so valued in their professions!

Many thanks to #NetGalley for a digital copy, and #Liveright for a surprise print one!
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Lemony Snicket returns with Poison For Breakfast, a tiny marvel of thoughts, philosophy, and the mess of human life.

"Everything in this book is true, by which that I mean it all really happened..." kickstarts a story that reads like the softly rolling hills of the English countryside, or the breeze blowing across the ocean, cooling your hot skin and wafting the tall dune grasses in mimic of the crashing waves. 

It is a story about poison, and poems, and bread, and honey, and Sanskrit, and imaginary conversations, and ideals, and morals, and happiness, and the perfect breakfast. Lemony Snicket - a word which here means the pseudonym for Daniel Handler - brings his whimsy and his way with words into a pleasant dose of philosophical insight. Regarding how we should treat one another, where we should be more observant of the world around us, why we can't seem to change the atrocious ways we continue to treat each other, and the importance of libraries, literature, and melody, Poison For Breakfast is a heartwarming introspective work. 

The whimsical outlook of Lemony Snicket abounds. Fans new and old will enjoy this winding, thoughtful story. There is a story, even if Snicket's thoughts often become tangental thoughts meant to provoke, of being poisoned at breakfast, being surprised, and going on an adventure. 

Certain aspects of Poison For Breakfast come as advice on writing; the act of it, the lunacy of it, the wonder of it, and the process of it. Like when he says "Each patron in a library is looking for something different, and so the book you hardly notice is the book someone else is breathless to find, and the book that always makes you smile is busy making someone else sick. As someone who writes books, this always gives me hope."

There are countless nuggets of wisdom and hundreds of charming, funny, or ridiculous quotes. It's not hard to imagine this book on one's shelf, with a broken spine and pages that fall out, with highlights and notes in the margins. Poison for Breakfast is the kind of book to be read now and again, to be returned to, to laugh over and cry over, to hug it to your chest, and maybe, on occasion, throw it across the room.

Many thanks to Lemony Snicket, W.W. Norton & Company, and NetGalley for this eARC - which here means electronic advanced reader copy - in exchange for an honest review.
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