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9/07/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Publication date: September 7th 2021
Publisher: Razorbill
ISBN: 0593403967

La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide.

This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World–and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier.

Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something – her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave.

When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou – a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history – Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent–and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.

I read this book back to back with The Dead and the Dark, and when I first went into this one, I thought for sure they’d be incredibly similar. The premises, after all, were pretty alike. Missing kids, small towns, etc. and so forth. But oh my god was I wrong. Though the elements are there, the differences between the two stories is miles and miles.

I spent a lot of time both in Louisiana and talking to people from the state so slipping into this story felt like meeting an old friend. I never considered that there were towns south of New Orleans, however, until the main character, Grey, explains the location of her hometown. I’ve always been fascinated by the wet, swampy lands of Southern Louisiana, so I was in love from the get-go with the rich setting.

I’m caught somewhere between feeling like a whole lot of nothing happen for a good portion of the story, and feeling like it was just the right length. There was a few moments where the story seemed to drag, but whenever I felt that way, the story shifted or something happened that made me want to keep reading.

I was left thinking about the ending for days and day after reading the last page. When I closed the book, I stared into the nothing for a few minutes before quietly swearing, “What the fuck was that?” I can say without reservation that I didn’t see that ending coming for a second. It left me wanting more; I actually checked to see if this was a standalone when I was done. Don’t think that there’s a cliffhanger ending because there’s not. I just needed some more time with the characters and setting. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you’re looking for an atmospheric, creepy read with lots of speculative elements to be apart of your Fall reading, I can’t recommend this one enough. I won my review copy in a contest from the publisher, but this did not influence my opinion of the book. Thank you PenguinTeen/Razorbill for the free copy!

Currently Listening To: Hollow - Breaking Benjamin

9/05/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

Publication date: November 17th 2020
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN: 1534457690
ISBN13: 9781534457690

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

*Note: The edition I read was the UK Fairyloot edition; the ISBNs above are for the US hardcover.

This book took me ages to read, and I still have no clue why. I’d love to say it was a conscious decision to savor it, or I was just too busy—both are true in their own ways—but I found myself in a reading slump while trudging through this that was incredibly hard to break. I thought for sure I wouldn’t finish it. Feeling that way was absolutely zero to do with whether I loved the book, though.

The plot reminded me of something directly out of The X-Files, a personal favorite, so I was destined from the start to enjoy this, I think. The concept of a river monster spewing little brain-eating bugs everywhere? Gross! I loved that. It was disturbing, tragic, and downright terrifying.

As I was reading, I found myself entranced by the writing. Chloe Gong is incredibly skilled at pulling you into the story; it was crazy to learn that not only was this her debut, but that she’s several years younger than me. Not me having a crisis and wondering what I’m doing with my life because of this book. >.< LMAO, anyways. She painted a stunning picture of 1920s Shanghai, of the characters, of the fear gripping the city. The character development was so good; I was obsessed with Juliette. The story wasn’t about a bunch of good guys; it was about all the bad guys having to come together to do something good. I haven’t read a lot of books like this, and to say I’m obsessed with that kind of storytelling is an understatement.

I went in expecting the romance to be… spicier. Truthfully, it was probably the result of Instagram and TikTok so this is less a critique of the book and more of a “manage your expectations that come from social media” PSA. With that said, I felt the romance is absolutely perfect: a slow burn, enemies-to-lover trope with a pinch of spice. Chef’s kiss. ♥

Throughout the story, I had my theories about the cause of the epidemic, but I definitely got whiplash towards the end, where it twisted and turned and twisted again. With that said, I still guessed who was causing the epidemic. I usually try not to stray too far ahead in my theories, or try to guess at all, but since I took so long to read it, I found myself thinking about it a lot while not reading. I only have myself to blame… *sigh*

This was one of my favorite reads of the summer. While I wasn’t, in the end, absolutely obsessed like so many of my friends, I adored every word I read and had so much fun theorizing the outcomes. I’m glad I don’t have long to wait for the sequel (so long as Fairyloot doesn’t delay for too long…), as it comes out November 16th! The day after my birthday!

Currently Listening To: Laughter Lines - Bastille Currently Reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

6/28/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Reviews, Science Fiction

Publication date: May 4th 2021
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
ISBN: 198214274X
ISBN13: 9781982142742

New Liberty City, 2134.

Two corporations have replaced the US, splitting the country’s remaining forty-five states (five have been submerged under the ocean) between them: Stellaxis Innovations and Greenleaf. There are nine supercities within the continental US, and New Liberty City is the only amalgamated city split between the two megacorps, and thus at a perpetual state of civil war as the feeds broadcast the atrocities committed by each side.

Here, Mallory streams Stellaxis’s wargame SecOps on BestLife, spending more time jacked in than in the world just to eke out a hardscrabble living from tips. When a chance encounter with one of the game’s rare super-soldiers leads to a side job for Mal—looking to link an actual missing girl to one of the SecOps characters. Mal’s sudden burst in online fame rivals her deepening fear of what she is uncovering about BestLife’s developer, and puts her in the kind of danger she’s only experienced through her avatar.

Thank you for Saga Press via NetGalley for the free copy! I’ve since bought my own copy to keep forever.

I finished this book on June 10th, and as I write this review, it’s eleven days later. I’m still living inside this book.

The past few years, it’s been difficult to really get into books. Gone are the days where I could stay up all night and read, and feel completely transported by the experience. The characters rarely jump off the page, the plot is usually good but not enough to suck in me; none of the books have been bad, it’s just how my experience has changed as I’ve passed into my twenties. I still love reading—it’s my favorite form of entertainment—but I have had to adjust to a new normal. Or so I thought.

From the moment I picked up Firebreak, I needed to know what came next.

From the very first page, I felt sucked into the story. It wastes no time in getting straight to the plot, which I really enjoyed. So many sci-fis feel the need to explain a lot up front, instead of weaving it throughout the story, and it ends up being a lot to process right away. Kornher-Stace feeds enough info to you to help you understand what’s going on, but not so much that I found myself overwhelmed. It was the exact pacing I needed to be able to dig myself a home within the story.

I’m a huge fan of Ready Player One but I don’t think the comparison is fair. Sure, it has a gamer as its protagonist, but RPO pretty much entirely takes place in the Oasis (at least, the most important parts do). Firebreak does not take place inside its game nearly as much. In fact, the latter half of the book spends most of its time in the real world, and for good reason. I understand the comparison from a marketing standpoint (that is, in fact, what initially drew me in) but do not go into it expecting something similar. Firebreak is a much more serious, higher stakes read that rocked me in a way that Ready Player One never could. Mal is a more likable character than Wade Watts; where Wade clearly develops a massive ego (especially in Ready Player Two) and spends a whole lot of time doing nothing, that’s not an option for Mal. It’s not filled with nostalgia and there’s no grand inheritance. It’s a story of war, loss, and the effects those things have on the people who survive them. The game is just a catalyst to the overarching plot.

As with any story about war, or any actual war, there are senseless deaths that are unreconcilable throughout the story. There are two, in particular, that devastated me. There are events that go unexplained, as Mal has no way to know the outcome, and that I appreciated. In another book, it might’ve annoyed me but when I considered the perspective from which this is written, I found no way for them to be explained. Mal is just a girl, not a soldier. She was thrown into this path without preparation or real knowledge of what it would mean later on. And goddamn did she fight like hell.

When I first finished the book, mixed emotions settled into my brain. I was pissed off; I was beside myself with grief. I wished there was more to the story… I needed there to be more. In the days that followed, I found my mind drifting back to the story until I suddenly just started crying. Like, in the middle of the work day, full on tears. That was the moment I realized that the book was my new favorite. That is what I really desired from books, I realized: ones that leave me thinking, searching for answers to the unanswerable long after it’s over.

I have yet to shut the fuck up about Firebreak. I’m pretty sure that my friends are a little annoyed with me but I don’t mind. I will scream it from the rooftops because this book is too underrated for how absolutely amazing it is. It is, without a doubt, my favorite book of 2021. I’ve read some really good ones this year but this one is really special.

If you’re looking for a good song to transport yourself into the story, listen to the one below! I definitely maybe might have cried when I first listened to it…

Currently Listening To: Fragile Bones - Palisades

6/08/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Reviews, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publication date: June 20th 2020
Publisher: Razorbill
ISBN: 1984835920
ISBN13: 9781984835925

When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.

Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists—including her family and friends—are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne—if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

I’m starting to write this review on the very same day that I finished this book, and holy shit. My mind is everywhere. I feel exceptionally (exceptionalish?) late to this book, since it came out last summer, and was apart of my July 2020 Owlcrate, but I’ve been slowly working my way through my backlog. When I saw a post on Bookstagram about it, and realized it sounded a bit like Across the Universe by Beth Revis—one of my favorite series of all time—it immediately jumped to the next spot on my reading list.

Let’s talk about the not-so-great part first. When Andra awakes, she finds a barren world, and a boy. That boy speaks English but the words are shortened and changed (for example, any of our words that end in -ly now end with -ish, and “marah” roughly translates to “Am I right?” and “evens” is “okay,” etc). It’s fairly simple to figure out, but it was painstaking in the beginning. I often read before bed and my eyes were crossing in the first 60-70 pages from trying to figure out the words. Thankfully, I found myself eventually able to do it without much thought. Side note, I love the lighthearted insult, “You spoon.” That’s a great one, lol. Once I was past the initial difficulty, I began to really appreciate the effort that it must’ve taken to create the language.

When Andra awakens, she finds herself on a dying world. Much of the book takes place under the bio’dome known as Eerensed, a city that is the last oasis left on the new planet. I can’t say too much about the setting without spoiling a good portion of the book, but I can say that the author did an amazing job of creating not only the barren world surrounding Eerensed but the city itself is no place I’d like to live. It’s crowded, claustrophobic, and unsafe. There’s multiple underground organizations bent on ridding the world of Andra and any other goddesses. And as we find out in the beginning, they already have gotten rid of others like her.

There’s multiple twists in this book that, quite frankly, I never saw coming. Obviously, to keep it spoiler-free, I can’t mention them, however it was these twists that really kept me reading. The plot is interesting on its own, don’t get me wrong. I just love a good twist and this book has at least three of them.

The next book, which is the conclusion (sad face), titled Devil in the Device comes out in August and you can’t bet your booty I’m picking it up. I’m actually quite sad that it won’t be out for another two and a half months because I just need to know what happens now. I highly recommend this book whether or not you’re a sci-fi fan but especially if you’re a fan of futuristic settings, space travel, and tech in books. It’s easily one of my favorite reads so far of 2021.

Currently Listening To: Ways to Disappear - Palisades

6/06/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings, Reviews

Release date: May 4th 2021
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 125077358X
ISBN13: 9781250773586

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

This was my May Book of the Month pick, after hearing about it from my friend Stacia on Instagram, instantly drawn to it because I had quite recently heard of Ariadne. I wasn’t particularly familiar with Ariadne’s story (honestly, I never went through that Greek mythology phase when I was a teenager) but I knew she was a figure within Greek mythology. Being that these myths favored men heavily and women were subjected to punishment for those men’s crimes (now, I do know the story of Medusa!), I was super excited to learn of a feminist retelling! So often, the stories of mythology just graze the surface, rarely explaining the excitement, the fear, the sadness, the joy the protagonists face on their journeys.

This is Jennifer Saint’s debut novel, and it’s an absolutely stunning one at that. I fell in love almost immediately with her beautiful lyrical writing, which carried through the novel, growing even better as the characters of Ariadne and Phaedra developed. I felt completely transported into the world of Ancient Greece, in all of its danger and beauty.

Can you call a plot unique if it’s a retelling? Again, I’ve never been familiar with Ariadne’s—nor Phaedra’s—story so each new turn, new betrayal, new twist, I felt entirely surprised. I grew quickly to despise Theseus, and to pity Ariadne. But I soon realized she didn’t need my pity at all. Despite all that is thrown at her, she never wavers in her commitment to do what’s right. I could really take a lesson about that from her, I think.

Naxos was an enchanting setting but I admit, at first, I was fearful that it would be Ariadne’s doom. As it grows and she learns its secrets, however, I found myself wanting to live there too, away from the harsh world. In the forest, where it’s lush and green, on the beach where she meets Dionysus, in the palace she lives in on Naxos. I was mesmerized by the rich detail and stunning descriptions.

Given that the story is well-known, I should’ve expected a less than happy ending but the book’s ending left me speechless. I can’t say I saw it coming, and I didn’t want to look up Ariadne’s story before reading, not wanting to be spoiled (can an ancient story be spoiled?) or lose the surprise. I greatly appreciate, however, that it was not changed for the sake of literature. There are few books where a main character dying wouldn’t cause me to immediately throw it out (looking at you, Veronica Roth) and this is one of them.

Knowing more now about Ariadne, I find myself totally in love with this book. I loved every second of it, and can’t wait be read from Jennifer Saint!

I have to say before I wrap this post up, that the very same day that I finished this book, Jennifer announced her next book is going to be Elektra and I know immediately what I’ll be picking up next spring!

Currently Listening To: Graveyard (Acoustic) - Halsey

5/25/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Historical, Reviews

Publication date: March 2nd 2021
Publisher: Park Row
ISBN: 0778311015 (US hardcover)
ISBN13: 9780778311010 (US hardcover)

Summary: Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

When this book came up as a selection for Book of the Month in March, it was an instant pick for me. Apothecaries, murders, and London? Sign me right the hell up. Not to mention that cover; absolutely gorgeous.

For me, this book was a quick read, both because of its length and the immediate investment I had in the fate of the characters, particularly Nella and Eliza. One thing I noticed quite glaringly is I cared little for Caroline or her involvement, while at the time understanding her purpose in the story. Something about her simply just… needled me. It seemed she loved to blame her bitterness on others rather than coming to terms with her responsibility in the matter. That, however, is my largest complaint about the story.

The London setting was richly atmospheric, especially Past London. I almost felt as though I was the one walking the cobbled streets. Even as Caroline’s present-day London vacation began with her stumbling around the Thames at low tide, I found myself planted firmly within the story. Nella’s shop, tucked away in a back alley, is illicit in her times but an incredible mystery in present day that I wish would’ve been explored more thoroughly in a way we could’ve seen.

The plot itself is fascinating and though I don’t know if this was the author’s intent, sounds strikingly similar to the murders carried out by Giulia Tofana in 1600s Italy. If you don’t know that tale, look it up immediately. I loved the way the story wove its way between the past and present, unraveling pieces of the mystery for the reader that Caroline would never get to know. There is a moment that connects the present and past together so perfectly, and it’s a moment I wish I could touch on without being spoilery, but it was the moment that cemented this book as one of my favorites (so far) of 2021.

Though I found the ending to be missing something very small—SPOILER which is that Nella’s fate should’ve been clearer—I absolutely loved this book. I would love to learn more of Nella’s past, whether in another book or short story, but one could only wish, right? This was Sarah Penner’s debut and it made me so eager to get to read more from her!

Currently Listening To: Euphoria - Angels & Airwaves Currently Reading: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

5/18/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Classics, Reviews, Special Editions

Special quote inserts are throughout the books

The Secret GardenBefore 2017, it was rare I ever went out of my way to get a collector’s or special edition of any book. A book is a book, after all, but thanks to Instagram, I found myself enamored with special editions. When OwlCrate began to do their own editions for the monthly boxes, I realized how special they were. Fast forward to now, my shelves are full of them. I would buy special editions of every one of my favorite books now, lol. My latest acquisitions are the Books-A-Million Seasons (Spring) editions of Emma by Jane Austen and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The jackets of those books are laser-cut with stunning artwork; for Emma, it features who else but Emma at its center, surrounded by trees, flowers, and picnic baskets, to name a few things, and for The Secret Garden, Mary discovering the garden is beautifully set against a magenta case. I was worried about the laser-cut being fragile but the publisher thought of this, including a removable plastic cover on top.

The books are quite solid, weighing almost two pounds each, which surprised me, given the length of The Secret Garden but as they say, I really do like big books! When I was taking the photos for this post, it took a while to figure out how to hold them and it was impossible for me to hold both up at the same time. Just a blogger things ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

One of my favorite things about these editions is that they’re numbered. Personally, it’s never been a huge thing if a book is numbered; it doesn’t affect my reading nor my collector experience. But it’s an added touch to these editions, as the back card explains they’re each limited to 10,000 copies and individually numbered. On the front endpapers, you can write your name or add your personal library stamp in a special spot provided.

There's something satisfying about the number 8,848 My Emma is number 3,075

Everything a collector could possibly desire is packed into these special editions. There’s a ribbon bookmark or under the info card, they included a laser-cut bookmark which gorgeously compliments the books. The one included with my copy of Emma was surprisingly a little burnt but I didn’t actually notice it at first and it probably should be expected, given that they use a whole laser to cut paper, lol. At first, the editions do seem expensive, priced at $34.99, and if you’re not a collector, they probably are, but the quality is superior for what you get out of these very special books. They’re meant to be put on display and are on par with the popularity of custom editions that so many companies seem to be doing these days. There are two other books in the Spring edition I did not pick up: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. If you’d like to order a copy of either of these Books-A-Million exclusive editions, click here for Emma and here for The Secret Garden.

Books-A-Million also has Summer editions available for purchase and preorders are open for Fall editions! I’m for sure going to need The Wonderland Collection and Dracula. I mean, I’m absolutely obsessed with the latter. To see more pictures of these beautiful editions, head over to my Instagram.

Currently Listening To: Die For You - Starset

5/17/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: General

I’m super excited to present my brand new blog/website! I’ve been wanting to bring this site back for a while but time, resources, and energy were lacking. With the past year’s events, I realized that I needed to be doing things that I loved and not just what other people wanted me to do.

I reached out to the amazing Kaci Elizabeth on a friend’s recommendation with literally just an idea for a galaxy theme and she came back with this incredible design! I couldn’t be more thankful and I highly, highly recommend her if you need a new theme for your WordPress site. I mean, wow. <3

If you aren’t familiar with me, hello! I’m so glad you’re here, really and truly. That you’ve found your way here is just crazy and awesome to me. I’m Lizzie and I first started my book blog at Blogger in 2010, aptly titled Darkly Honest. I was 15 at the time so naturally, I was quite the wordsmith with that name. The blog moved around a bit, from Blogger to WordPress and later to this very domain (powered by WP then and now) before I decided in 2015 that blogging was somehow not what I was supposed to be doing. Unfortunately, that decision was enormously stupid. I lost my way, a little bit, and it was a long time before I realized that it actually was the right thing to be doing. I love talking about books, reading them, writing them, just being in the conversation! I missed a lot in those six years and I hate how I let that happen all because of some self-imposed timeline.

In the years since, I’ve job-hopped, went back to school to study cyber security, decided I hated that, job-hopped some more, and decided on pursuing a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature at Southern New Hampshire University. I know my calling in life is have my feet firmly planted somewhere in the book publishing industry, whether that be through authoring, editing, or agenting. The hope is being an author but I’m exploring all my options because the creative landscape is decidedly difficult. But knowing firmly what I’d been suspecting all along is a good place to start.

I’m still working on some finishing touches but I’ve tried to make a couple pages accessible to start out. Try not to judge me too harshly if they’re strange or strangely worded as I get everything sorted. 😉 My first review is in the works right this second so be sure to keep an eye out!

In the mean time, please follow me on social media! Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter.

Currently Listening To: Ivy - Taylor Swift Currently Reading: Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

2/24/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: General

Welcome to my website, where I’ll discuss books and my writing. It’s a work in progress so stay tuned…