book review (with cover mani!): this savage song

This book, guys. 

This. Book.

It was tense, insightful, gorgeously written, and positively bursting with interesting moral dilemmas. I read it quickly, even though I didn't want it to end, and now it feels like ten lifetimes until the next book is slated for release. But isn't that the best-slash-worst way to start a series? Of course it is! (Unfortunately. Haha!)

The back jacket, from Goodreads

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.


Before I get into my review, I think I should share something: I'm a sucker for the name August. Especially when August is a male character, because it makes me think about the movie August Rush, which has one of the best soundtracks ever. So the combination of a male character named August and the musical-ish story of THIS SAVAGE SONG gave me the warm and fuzzies right away. That said, those warm and fuzzies didn't last long because this book is downright dark

But dark is how I like my YA, so as far as I'm concerned, this book was a total win. I mean, Kate takes no crap from anybody, even if it means getting her hands dirty, there are monsters everywhere, and her world is on the brink of total anarchy. Meanwhile, August is a sympathetic outsider who just wants to belong. But like the back jacket states, he's also one of the monsters. 

So who's the good guy/gal? 

Who's the bad one? 

What the frick is happening?

It's a genius idea, when authors create characters with sliding scales of light and dark. Mostly because it makes me hella nervous, which explains why I read this book so quickly. 

Another bias I have to admit is that I'm bananas about books that blur the line between right and wrong. The messier the morality, the better the book, and THIS SAVAGE SONG is messier than messy--think, glitter-bomb-in-a-tornado messy, only the glitter would be pointy and sharp and probably murder you. Schwab's concept is deliciously complicated, in that regard, and it makes meaningful points about the world that we, the reader, live in. But, you know, in a subtle way because nobody likes a book on a soapbox. 

Plus, there are creepy childhood singsongs. And no love-triangles (which is a pretty common occurrence in YA). Oh, and I can't forget the atmospheric amazingness. Did I feel like I was actually in Verity? Yup. I totally did. And trust me, it was terrifying. 

Add that all up and you've got the makings of a seriously incredible series, which leaves me conflicted because I want to scream READ THIS BOOK NOW, but then you'll be stuck waiting with me. But hey, misery loves company right? So let me know when you read it and we can commiserate about the excruciating wait. Probably over cupcakes. Because cupcakes make even the most painful wait, bearable. 

*buys one million cupcakes*


For this mani, I used:

OPI - A Man-Darin Is Hard To Find, I'm Not Really A Waitress, and Matte topcoat
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mache
Julep - Dawn
Tools - piCture pOlish #9, trimmed striping brush, and a triangular makeup sponge

And for more, non-book-related manis, check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)


book review (with cover mani!): I let you go

This book has been all over the place and I just wasn't sure about it, but when a copy was forced upon me by my favourite bookseller, who was all: Why haven't you read this yet?!, I decided to give it a try. I'm happy to report that yet again, Steph was right on the money, because it was incredible!


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .


To put it plainly, the subject matter of I LET YOU GO is heartbreaking, but if you can connect with Jenna like I did, you'll be mesmerized by her voice. I think it would've been easy to overdo certain emotional reactions, considering the tragedy, and yet, Jenna's grief is relatively quiet, resting just beneath the surface. Naturally, it comes to the forefront every so often, which is when I'd feel tears sliding down my face, but for the most part, Jenna tries to look forward. 

Because above all else, Jenna is a survivor, but there's more to life than just surviving. She wants to start over and create another life for herself. But how can the human soul recover from such despair? Jenna begins to address that question within the early chapters, and for the rest of the book, we follow Jenna as she tries to figure it out. 

Unfortunately, that's about all I can tell you about I LET YOU GO, because surprises abound in this baby, popping up in unexpected places to give you pulses of anxiety and quash any notion you had about sleeping even though you have a big meeting the next morning. So instead, I've put together a few GIFs that accurately capture my emotional reading experience; the circle of feelings, if you will.

1. Heartbreak

2. Surprise


3. Brain-explosion

Repeat those expressions four times and that's how I got through I LET YOU GO. The writing is riveting, evocative, and downright bananapants, which built the plot to the highest levels of insanity while cracking open my Grinch-y heart. I admire authors who make me squirm in my chair, which is why I'm now an official member of the Clare Mackintosh Fan Club. Because holy squirm-fest! I even found myself leaning forward as I read, because relaxing in a chair felt disrespectful to the stress-eating stakes.

So if you decide to pick up I LET YOU GO, do yourself a favour and don't start right before you go to bed. Not unless you've got some sick days at work left, anyway, because the rest of the world will quickly seem insignificant once you turn that first page. Oh, and don't read any reviews. I've been noticing some reviews for this book include spoilers, which is the meanest thing ever (OMG STOP DOING THAT, PEOPLE). You've got to read this one without any prior knowledge of anything, except the warning that your dogs probably won't get walked and kiddos will have to fend for themselves. Not to worry, though, you can make it up to them later with bacon strips and a trip to the water park. Respectively. Haha!


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Man Hunt and Immortal
Julep - Kenna
ORLY - White Tips
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
OPI - Matte topcoat
Tools - saran wrap technique, piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, triangular makeup sponge

And for more, non-book-related manis, be sure to check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)


book review (with cover mani!): I like you just fine when you're not around

There’s a very cool Summer Reading Challenge happening, open to anyone, where the goal is to read books written by writers who belong to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. If you look up from this post, slightly to the right, you’ll see a tab labeled: WFWA. Click on it to learn about the awesomeness! Anyway, I love having a list to pick from, and when I saw I LIKE YOU JUST FINE WHEN YOU’RE NOT AROUND, my giggle had me pressing “buy now.” Because funny titles are the best. 

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Everything is falling apart in Tig Monahan's life. Her mother's memory is going (dementia), her boyfriend is gone (Hawaii), her absent sister shows up long enough to have a baby (and then leaves again, without the baby) and her job as a therapist has disappeared after a contentious couples' therapy session goes horribly and honestly sideways. Oh, and then there's the whole thing about the family secret that nobody saw coming.

But Tig is a survivor (she hopes) who manages to stumble and step her way to a new job, new truths, new outlooks and a new lease on life.


I’m not sure I need to leave a review, because if the back jacket description isn’t enough to have you sprinting towards your bookseller of choice, then this probably isn't the book for you. I mean, what other life-altering awful thing can happen to Tig? And the book hasn’t even started yet! Don't be scared of the awfulness, though, because while this book tackles majorly intense events, the delightfully humourous tone keeps things light.

Okay, so maybe I lied. This book is actually pretty heavy. However, Tig is such a wonderfully quirky character that even in her darkest moments, she can see the light. And yes, her humour is, at times, a defense mechanism, but there’s also a very relatable pragmatism that Tig possesses. When one extraordinarily awful thing happens to a person, it can consume them. Drag them down. Possibly even drown them. But when there are several extraordinary awful things to juggle and you're all alone, there’s no choice but to get up and just do it. Tig is the perfect manifestation of that sentiment--the Nike of women's fiction characters, if you will. Haha! Don’t get it twisted though, she’s an emotional basketcase, wound tighter than a harp string and liable to snap at any moment, but all of the external problems that Tig has to deal with force her to look within herself, whether she wants to or not. The only way out is through and fortunately, Tig seems to understand the process, so through it, she goes. 

It’s a bumpy ride, that’s for sure, and there’s a 95% chance you’ll cry when reading about Tig's ups and downs, but you’ll laugh too. In fact, I’d even gather to say that you may learn a little bit about yourself, because this book is like that friend who sits you down and holds up a mirror, lovingly exposing the parts of you that need tweaking. What you do with that information afterwards is up to you, of course, but either way, you'll get to know yourself better. 


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Red My Fortune Cookie and Matte Top Coat
Julep - Amy, Dawn, and Linda
China Glaze - Turned Up Turquoise
ORLY - White Tips
Tools - saran wrap technique, small dotting tool, and piCture pOlish brush #9


book review (with cover mani!): pasta wars

There are few things I love more in fiction than a strong woman and a rough-around-the-edges man, but one of those things is pasta. So naturally, the combination of a strong woman, rough-around-the-edges man and pasta made me all kinds of hand-grabby for PASTA WARS. Because pasta

*restrains grabby hands to take picture*

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Slim, successful, and soon to marry the man of her dreams, Katie Cravens is leading the life she always wanted. As the face and CEO of Pasta Pronto, a Carbs for the Calorie-Conscious line of frozen food, Katie chooses to live life like one of her Slimline Spaghetti dinners no mess, no surprises, and everything tied up in a neat little package. But when Katie's fiance runs off with another woman and a quality control fiasco sends her customers running for the hills, it's time for Katie to make a change.

Her company's salvation presents itself in the form of a partnership opportunity with the legendary Ristorante Caramelli of Rome, and Katie has no other choice but to jet off to Italy to convince gorgeous, hotheaded co-owner Luca Caramelli that she's a worthy partner. Gaining Luca's respect proves harder than Katie could have ever imagined, however, when he insists that she must learn how to cook and how to eat true Italian food before he will ever agree to their companies partnership.

Katie and Luca's tension in Italy mounts into a fierce public rivalry that erupts back in the States with a nationally televised cooking competition. As Katie tries to channel her inner Mario Batali to win the competition, she must choose between the flavorless prepackaged life that she worked so hard to maintain and the mouth-watering uncertainty of a life chock full of carbohydrates and Caramellis.


I’ve been a fan of Elisa Lorello for quite some time. Her writing is next-level fantastic and her works illuminate the complexities of relationships while pushing my feeling buttons to the point where I end up ugly crying on an airplane, much to the delight horror of the elderly man sitting next to me (note: this is a true story). Although PASTA WARS is a bit more lighthearted than her other books, I'm happy to report that all of Lorello's fantastic-ness remains intact. (Yay!)

Katie was a relatable hot mess of sad (because nothing is sadder than a hot mess not realizing the degree of their hot mess-ness) and Luca was passionate, cranky, but oh so lovely to imagine, even when he stormed from a room. Or was it especially when he stormed from a room? Haha! Either way, the setup for chemistry was akin to that of a slacker seventh grader’s final project: explosive. Kaboom!

And don’t even get me started on the food. Holy awesomesauce! Literally. Because all of the sauces Luca makes sound freaking incredible. The level of description—what to chop, peel, grate, and drizzle—read like a cookbook. I was honestly left believing that if I followed along, I too could create Luca’s drool-worthy concoctions. And it's just the best when I feel like I’m in the action, kneading and whisking and tasting sweet vine tomatoes alongside flavourful basil. I mean, yum, right? Granted, I was more like Katie than Luca, being that I’m not the greatest chef, but I swear that when Luca melted butter in a pan, I could smell it. Unfair, really, because I wasn't able to eat the delectable treat he nonchalantly whipped up. Like, can a girl get a scone with fresh berries, please? 

So in sum, PASTA WARS matches a relatable female hot mess with an equally relatable hot hunk of man mess and they make pasta together. I seriously don’t know what else you need to know about this book. Just pick it up already! But you should probably have Italian food on standby before you start reading or you’ll be chewing the pages in a vain attempt to taste the deliciousness. (Take my word for it, though, the paper just ends up tasting like paper. Haha!)

I'd also like to give a special shout-out to Elisa for sending me a copy of PASTA WARS. Until January of 2017, it's only available at Barnes & Noble and being from The Great White North, we don't have B&N. *cues weeping* If you're like me, being that you don't have access to B&N, now's the time to scroll through your American contact list and see who can get you a copy. January's a long time away, folks! Especially for a super fun book like this! 


For this mani, I used:

OPI - A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find, Towel Me About It, CIA: Colour Is Awesome, and My Silk Tie
Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism
Julep - Mackenzie
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Top Coat
China Glaze - Immortal
Tools - trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush #9

And for more, non-book-related manis, be sure to check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)


book review (with cover mani!): the grisha trilogy

I started the Grisha Trilogy after they'd all been released and thank frickin' goodness because it would've been a painful wait after finishing SHADOW AND BONE. The writing was so engaging that I read all three books in a week, which is why I decided to review the whole darn thing at once.  Because holy magical awesomeness!

*bangs book review gong*

To avoid spoilers, I'll only share the back jacket for SHADOW AND BONE (Book #1), from Goodreads:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Oh man. This trilogy really was amazing. Just re-reading the back jacket for SHADOW AND BONE put a smile on my face. Haha! There were so many elements to love about this trilogy, but one that stands out in particular is character motivations. In this series, both the good guys and the bad guys long to be part of something bigger than themselves, to feel like they belong. Granted, they had different ways of showing it, by wanting to either save or destroy the kingdom of Ravka, but their motivations came from the same source. 

It was a genius move, really, because every reader has felt the ache of loneliness at some point, and that sympathy snakes its way towards the Darkling who, as you can probably guess by his name, is the bad guy. Nobody’s all good or all bad, and Bardugo's uncanny knack for writing characters who are ripe with redeemable virtues yet also possess terribly unflattering ones, shines throughout each instalment. And by sympathizing with the Darkling, I ended up rooting for both sides. When one side got a win, I'd want to raise my fist in triumph, but I'd also feel a twinge of compassion for the defeated--a seriously cool reading experience.

Rich descriptions are another standout element of the Grisha Trilogy. With technicolor imagery, each scene leaps off the page. When Alina discovers ornate carvings in a grand castle, my fingers grazed the ridges with her, and if characters found themselves shivering on the side of a snowy mountain, I practically had to put on a sweater. 

In addition to awesome characters and killer settings, there’s tons of action in each book--no save-it-for-the-grand-finale stuff happening here!--and the stakes get higher and higher as you go along (to the point where you may read RUIN AND RISING in one day, which is exactly what I did because oh em gee all the things!!). Plus, there’s the whole magical powers thing. And the romance. And, you know, basically everything you'd ever want in a trilogy. Haha!

So yeah. You need to read the Grisha Trilogy because it's a tale that will sharpen your imagination until you basically feel like you’re Alina, and since Alina is wicked cool, that’s a pretty marvelous thing. Also, when you're done you'll need to pick up SIX OF CROWS (the first book in another series) because it's set in the same world and is also all kinds of awesome. But buy hard copies of them all, okay? I mean, you did see the ridiculously gorgeous covers, right? Like I wasn’t going to do a mani for all three? *rings obvious bell*

Yes, I realize I'm recommending you buy four books (technically five because the sequel to SIX OF CROWS comes out in the fall yay!) but I swear you won't regret it. Consider them your summer reading list, if that'll convince you, although I wouldn't be surprised if you whip through the four published books in no time flat because once you get a taste of Grisha life, you won't want to stop.


For the Shadow and Bone mani, I used:
OPI - Alpine Snow, My Silk Tie, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, and Matte Top Coat
China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage and Immortal
NARS - Dovima
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Top Coat
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, saran wrap, trimmed striping brush

For the Siege and Storm mani, I used:
piCture pOlish - salt water
Julep - Amy
OPI - Alpine Snow, My Silk Tie, Rollin' In Cashmere, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Malaga Wine, You Don't Know Jacques, CIA: Color Is Awesome, and Matte Top Coat
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #10, trimmed striping brush

For the Ruin and Rising mani, I used:
OPI - A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Malaga Wine, My Silk Tie, and Matte Top Coat
China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage and Immortal
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, saran wrap, trimmed striping brush

And for more, non-book-related manis, be sure to check out my IG page (@jennieshaw)!


book review (with cover mani!): lowcountry book club

LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB is the fifth book in the Liz Talbot mystery series and totally my favourite (so far)! All the delightful things I love about Liz were woven throughout this very twisty tale, and there were a few unexpected bonus pieces of awesomeness, too. Yay for unexpected bonus pieces of awesomeness! Haha!


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Somebody pushed Shelby Poinsett out her second-floor library window and it wasn’t her husband. At least that what Charleston’s most prestigious law firm wants Liz Talbot to prove. Liz must run the spectrum of Southern society, from the local homeless shelter where Shelby volunteered to the one-hundred-year-old book club where Charleston’s genteel ladies are dying to join, to bring a killer to justice.


Liz Talbot is a fantastic character. She believes in the old-school way of investigating and isn’t afraid to throw on a granny wig, fake a limp, and charm information out of someone who’s never the wiser. And in this installment, Liz investigates the members of a long-standing book club, so naturally, I was all about it!

Being from the North (like, waaaaaaay north, meaning Canada) I'm moderately obsessed with everything Southern: the accents, colloquialisms, architecture, and of course, the food. Oh em gee, the food! While devouring LOWCOUNTRY BOIL, I learned to not read on an empty stomach because Boyer's knack for food descriptions had my stomach rumbling on more than one occasion, and in LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB, there were too many delectable dishes to count. In fact, she even includes poutine! As previously stated, I’m Canadian, so seeing the fusion of one of my country’s signature dishes with a Southern twist was pretty cool. And Boyer even went so far as to specify that cheese curds were used, instead of shredded cheese (which is basically an insult to poutine #cheesecurdsforlife).

But enough about food (mmm...food), because this book is a cozy mystery, which means there was much more than eating going on. Namely, finding out who killed Shelby Poinsett! With few solid leads, Liz and her partner Nate have no choice but to interview everyone who knew her (spoiler alert: Shelby knew about half of Charleston, haha) and that's precicely why I dig this series so much. There's never an obvious guilty party. Sure, there are characters who stand out as suspects, but Boyer's too smart to hand them to you on a silver platter. At one point, I was so sure I knew who killed Shelby that I would've bet this month's book money, but thankfully it wasn't a real bet because otherwise, July would've been a sad, new-book-less month. I wasn't even close! Haha!

The usual cast of quirky and endearing characters are all accounted for as well, and one of the unexpected bonus pieces of awesomeness concerns Liz’s brother, Blake. I won’t spoil it, but when you’ve read LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB, can you please message me? I’m dying to talk to someone about it! 

So if you like mysteries where you’ll be guessing until the very end, told in that wonderfully melodic Southern way, then you should absolutely check out this series! But start from the beginning or you’ll miss out on getting to know these fabulous characters. Trust me on that one.

(Note: I received a complimentary copy of LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB for consideration, but in no way did it influence my review. I keep it real, folks! Haha!)

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Mod About You, Alpine Snow, Black Onyx, Malaga Wine, Suzi Has A Swede Tooth, You Are So Outta Lime, and You Don't Know Jacques
Julep - Dawn and Francis
China Glaze - Boho Blues, Inteligence Integrity & Courage
ORLY - Mirrorball
Nina Ultra Pro - Hint of Mint
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, #10, and a trimmed striping brush from Amazon

And to see more, non-book-related manis, check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)