24.5.17

review and cover mani: party girls die in pearls

Oh em gee, people, I have a super fun book to share with you today. PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS was pitched as Agatha Christie meet Clueless and it absolutely delivered. A throwback to traditional mysteries, PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS presented posh, British 1980s vibes in full technicolor. Whenever a metallic item of clothing appeared, my heart grew one size larger until I feared it would explode. (Spoiler: That didn't take long. Haha!) Ursula Flowerbutton had me at her last name (and also her first, if I'm being honest, because I'm a fan of The Little Mermaid) and she quickly became a force to be reckoned with, so now I'm officially obsessed. 

*points excitedly while still wearing fishnet fingerless gloves*




Back jacket, from Goodreads:

It’s 1985, and at Oxford University, Pimm’s, punting, and ball gowns are de rigeur. Ursula Flowerbutton, a studious country girl, arrives for her first term anticipating nothing more sinister than days spent poring over history books in gilded libraries—and, if she’s lucky, an invitation to a ball.

But when she discovers a glamorous classmate on a chaise longue with her throat cut, Ursula is catapulted into a murder investigation.

Determined to bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper Cherwell, Ursula enlists the help of trend-setting American exchange student Nancy Feingold to unravel the case. While navigating a whirl of black-tie parties and secret dining societies, the girls discover a surfeit of suspects. From broken-hearted boyfriends to snobby Sloane Rangers, lovelorn librarians to dishy dons, none can be presumed innocent—and Ursula’s investigations mean that she may be next on the murderer’s list.

___

Like most mysteries from the 80s and before, the suspect pool in PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS was about the size of Lake Ontario--significant, but manageable--and the cast of characters had large personalities, written to perfection. The dry humour made me chuckle, as did the soap-opera style drama, where reactions were endearingly over-the-top. In particular, Horatio the Oxford gossip reporter, stole whatever scene he appeared in. To the point that I felt a strong urge to jump into the book and be his best friend. 

Ursula's other friends included fellow students, but she quickly gravitated towards Nancy Feingold, who made for an excellent BFF partner-in-crime(solving). Her brash American-isms and extensive designer wardrobe softened Ursula's sharper edges, along with getting her into the very parties Ursula needed to attend in order to gather evidence and have some fun. Ursula was more of a prickly sort and I'm happy she had a counterpart to balance her out.


Cover design by Fritz Metsch


Aside from the great characters and smart writing, there was another, fairly random element that made PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS such an enjoyable romp. You know the sorts of books where the environment becomes its own character? Well in this case, it was champagne, which I know sounds insane but hear me out. As the mystery unfolded, champagne basically became an independent protagonist and involved itself in everybody else's business. No matter what happened, champagne was in attendance. I'd even argue that without champagne, there wouldn't have been a plot, which makes total sense while also making zero sense and I'm laughing as I type this because what does that even mean? For real. How can a beverage become a character? Or play such a huge role in a mystery? You'll have to read PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS to understand the awesomeness, so after you burn through it, please shoot me an email to let me know I'm not alone in this belief. Haha!




As much as I really liked PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS, there were also a couple of things that irked me. I found the ending to be rather abrupt, which was a minor bummer, and the trail of clues were occasionally too convenient. That said, those two issues won't stop me from picking up the second. I need more Ursula and Nancy! (And Horatio, of course.) And you do, too. So get yourself a copy as soon as possible. If you have a vacation coming up, this is a perfect choice. And hey, if you really want to up your reading experience, have a bottle of bubbly on hand. It'll add a certain realness to the story and any excuse to drink champagne is a good one, right? Haha!


 Big thanks to Harper Collins Canada for a review copy!



---

For this mani, I used:

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

OPI - Alpine Snow, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Charged Up Cherry, and matte topcoat

Essie - Getting Groovy

Mitty brushes - Peachy 000 and Daisy 1.0




17.5.17

blog tour: the perfect stranger




Greetings, fellow book enthusiasts! It's been years since I've participated in a blog tour and I'm super psyched to be part of Megan Miranda's. Her latest novel, THE PERFECT STRANGER, was bananas x 10 and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

*cues must-read siren*




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?
__


If you've read any of my reviews before, you already know that unreliable narrators make my heart pitter patter. Mostly because they keep me anxious. Haha! So with that in mind, it means a fair bit when I say that Leah Stevens is the greatest unreliable narrator I've ever read. No question. No debate. She is the best. And the combination of her true unreliableness with mysteries in her past and present, is what cranked this book to eleven. It was a risky move, because either element could've fallen flat, but it paid off. Big time.




With other unreliable narrators, their dishonestly often rises to the surface early on, which is what I thought happened with Leah. Even in the jacket description, she's a "failed journalist" who has a restraining order against her. Obviously, she's no angel, because somebody felt threatened by her. So in the beginning, I questioned her degree of truthfulness. But soon, I began to believe Leah had done the right thing at her newspaper and then things got ridiculously interesting. Because quickly after I started to believe her, a bias was revealed that warped Leah's motivations like a funhouse mirror, which had me reevaluating her perspective again! Bouncing between certainty and suspicion made me feel like a pinball in the best possible way.

Ping - Oh wow, Leah's had a hard life. She's a survivor and a gal I'd want in my corner, for sure.

Ping - Wait. Is she maybe a bit off? Cause I don't think she's interpreting that situation in a manner that makes any sense.

Ping - No way. Leah's fierce, persistent, and people misunderstand her because she keeps her guard up. She's a truth-teller, whether others want to hear it or not.

Ping - Cancel that. Leah's legit batshit crazy and it's glorious. 

Ping - OMG she is totally not crazy how could I ever have doubted her WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?!

Repeat that cycle four times and that's basically how my reading of THE PERFECT STRANGER went. There were a lot of moving parts in the plot and seeing the story unfold through Leah's eyes meant I could never be sure if I was getting closer to the truth (which happened sometimes), or taking a short cut that would prove to be a dead-end (which happened just as often). It was amazing.




So if you're a fan of unreliable narrators, a plot with more layers than a wedding cake, and a steady, tension-filled pace, THE PERFECT STRANGER must find its way onto your TBR. Close to the top. Like, make it your next read. Trust me. Or don't trust me? Am I unreliable? Haha!! You know I wouldn't mislead you. So buy it. Buy it now!


Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for including me on this blog tour, and for hooking me up with an ARC!



___

For this mani, I used:

ORLY - Charged Up

OPI - Fearlessly Alice, Need Sunglasses?, Towel Me About It, Alpine Snow, and matte topcoat

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

China Glaze - Under the Boardwalk, Man Hunt, I Got A Blue Attitude, Plur-ple, and Good Tid-ings

Trimmed striping brush and Mitty Daisy 1.0









4.5.17

book review and cover mani: her every fear

Clutch your pearls to your throats, people, because I have a bananapants thriller to tell you about. In order to properly convey my love, this review will have GIFs. First, because it's the sort of book review where I can't talk about specifics, but more importantly, because I loved HER EVERY FEAR so much that words alone won't suffice.


*launches white and blue glitter cannon because colour coordination is important*






The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves--until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

___

So, yeah. I'm going to start by throwing down a fact: Peter Swanson is basically the Roger Federer of misdirection. Every time I thought things were going right, they veered left...and then flipped backwards and upside down. I swear it only took five chapters for my face to do this: 


http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/150496838497


Which quickly lead to this:

http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/93412050257


And then...this:

http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/135711005705

Like, I literally paused and said, "whoa." Aloud. To myself. At about the halfway mark, I started planning out my mani, because unless the book spontaneously combusted, along with every other copy in existence, meaning I would be forever bitter from not finding out how it ended, I'd give it five stars. That rarely happens. Also rare? I actually painted this mani twice, because the first time, I wasn't satisfied with my linework. Yes, I loved this book so much that I wanted my tribute to be as good as it could be. I have never done two manis before (because they take forever). That alone should tell you how good HER EVERY FEAR is. Like, do you even need to keep reading this review? 😉


The second mani (because no way I'm showing you the first).
Cover design by William Ruoto.


There are many novels nowadays that straddle literary and commercial, and I think HER EVERY FEAR is a great example, although it's more like 60/40 on the literary side. Err...maybe 70/30. No. Let's go with 65/35. Haha!

I want to address that because in the interests of keeping it real, I wasn't too keen on the first chapter. There was something slightly condescending about the tone that irked me (which I sometimes find with more literary novels). I ended up putting the book down, in favour for another, but it stayed on my nightstand. I picked it back up about a month later, willing to give it another chance...and proceeded to stay up an extra hour to read. Once I got into it, the voice softened (but remained quite sharp) and my face began its journey of escalating expressions of shock. So if you're not quite sure about the first chapter, trust me. You need to keep reading.




In conclusion, it should come as no surprise that HER EVERY FEAR is getting a must read stamp from me. The book got better and better, each character was completely unpredictable, and my head is still spinning from all the craziness. Just buy it, people. Buy it now!



___

For this mani, I used:

Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

OPI - It's A Boy!

Julep - Janae and Erin

China Glaze - Wait 'N Sea and Boho Blues

Mitty Daisy 1.0 and trimmed striping brush. 








26.4.17

book review and cover mani: I found you

Stories about memory loss have always intrigued me. I love the uncertainty. Live for it, actually. Because when a novel begins with a main character who doesn't know who they are, the possibilities are limitless. However, it's not an easy feat to accomplish. Sometimes the concept can be boring, or too obvious, but when it's done right, I'm in it to win it. And that's exactly what happened with I FOUND YOU.

*points excitedly*


I read I FOUND YOU during the long weekend, hence my beverage of choice. Haha!


The jacket, from Goodreads:

A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

___

Jewell's choice to include a wide variety of POVs is one of the reasons I FOUND YOU worked so well. Each one approached the plot from a different perspective and acted like the corner pieces to the puzzle, framing the man's missing memory. But these weren't cookie-cutter types of characters. No, to up the ante considerably, each character possessed clear biases--a slant to how they viewed the world--which meant that nobody was reliable. Honestly, one of the most interesting parts of the book was seeing how they justified their decisions. Early on, I had a real sense on how they'd behave, which was beyond awesome. Jewell was so clear, in fact, that I'd get a little tingle of anticipation when I knew a character's motivations would crash into another's to make a big ole mess. Yay! (That makes me sound so mean, haha!)


Cover art by Laywan Kwan

As the characters moved forward, both in the present and the past, the picture began to form. But it wasn't straightforward. Discovering the mystery of who was who didn't happen in a straight line. Kind of like an episode of Lost, where information was unearthed, but not in order. It legit kept me turning pages, which was impressive because I usually prefer a quicker pace. Instead, I FOUND YOU offered a perfect slow burn, one that eventually turned into a frickin' forest fire. I mean, I read the book in two days and it would've been one day if mandatory adulting hadn't gotten in the way, because I had to know what happened next.




The final thing I want to mention about I FOUND YOU, is Alice. She kept it so real and I loved her for it. She didn't have a perfectly spotless house and wasn't too concerned. She loved her kids, but didn't necessarily parent them in a traditional way. Alice felt no need to be perfect and it was a breath of fresh air. Mega kudos to Jewell, in that regard, because it made this story feel all-the-more real. 

So if you love a thriller that keeps you guessing, a gradual crescendo of tension, and charmingly-authentic characters, I FOUND YOU is the book for you! 

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a review copy!
___

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Dating A Royal, In My Back Pocket, Towel Me About It, Fearlessly Alice, You Don't Know Jacques, and Matte topcoat.

China Glaze -Man Hunt and Change Your Altitude

Julep - Eliana and Lizzy

Essie - shake your $$ maker 

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

Mitty Daisy 1.0, eyeshadow sponge


21.4.17

book review and cover mani: sputnik's children

Every once in a while, I have the urge to read something outside my usual genres. You know, to mix it up. So when I saw SPUTNIK'S CHILDREN on Netgalley, I thought I'd give it a try. It definitely satisfied my craving for something new and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

*cue twinkling stars sound*



The description, from Goodreads:

Cult comic book creator Debbie Reynolds Biondi has been riding the success of her Cold War era–inspired superhero series, Sputnik Chick: Girl with No Past, for more than 25 years. But with the comic book losing fans and Debbie struggling to come up with new plotlines for her badass, mutant-killing heroine, she decides to finally tell Sputnik Chick’s origin story.

Debbie’s never had to make anything up before and she isn’t starting now. Sputnik Chick is based on Debbie’s own life in an alternate timeline called Atomic Mean Time. As a teenager growing up in Shipman’s Corners — a Rust Belt town voted by Popular Science magazine as “most likely to be nuked” — she was recruited by a self-proclaimed time traveller to collapse Atomic Mean Time before an all-out nuclear war grotesquely altered humanity. In trying to save the world, Debbie risked obliterating everyone she’d ever loved — as well as her own past — in the process.

Or so she believes . . . Present-day Debbie is addicted to lorazepam and dirty, wet martinis, making her an unreliable narrator, at best.

__

As much as Debbie is described as an unreliable narrator, I didn't find that to be the case. She was certainly a self-medicated narrator, but I always believed her, and that was important because the story had a lot of uncertainty. Without Debbie's charmingly sharp point of view, I'm not sure I would've been so engaged. Because let me tell you, even when the science parts went over my head, I was turning pages as quickly as I could, desperate to know how it would turn out. At times, my curiosity felt downright overwhelming. I mean, the story had time travel, alternate worlds, a mysterious stranger, and a giant ticking clock, so I never had any idea where the plot would veer to next.




For me to have that level of investment, the writing has to be on point, and holy hotcakes, folks, Terri Favro can write. Her prose was layered, informative, wry, political, and it blew my frickin' mind. A perfect balance of charming metaphors and witty one-liners, she blended facts with fiction to the point where I began to question my own reality. The concept seemed far-fetched to me in the beginning, but now I'm not so sure. Like, are there other versions of reality? Do we have dopplegangers someplace else, who would consider us the dopplegangers of them?! Do they have bombs? ARE WE GONNA DIE?! Yes folks, SPUTNIK'S CHILDREN will stretch your mind as it entertains you, which is a pretty cool experience. I'd love to get more detailed here, but it's a book you should experience for yourself and I don't want to spoil any of the crazypants surprises. Also, if you're Canadian, you'll love all the sly references to the great white north, from du Maurier cigarettes to Mark's Work Warehouse. I know I sure did!



So if you're into science fiction with a Canadian flare, I highly recommend SPUTNIK'S CHILDREN. It's the sort of book you have to invest in, as a reader, because the details are important, but it's worth the effort. Every sentence is meaningful. And hey, it doesn't hurt that the plot is straight-up bananas and Debbie is a wholly unique character who should probably lay off the martinis (even though she deserves them). What more could you want? Haha! 

Thanks to Netgalley and ECW Press for the review copy!



___

For this mani, I used:

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mache

China Glaze - UV Meant To Be

OPI - matte top coat and nail polish thinner

trimmed striping brush and a dotting tool

6.4.17

book review and cover mani: miss you

With spring doing its best to chase winter away, it's the perfect time for a book like MISS YOU to come into the world. I mean, have you ever seen such a cheery collection of colours on a cover? Fun fact: this cover required the most nail polish I've used for a mani, coming in at a whopping 28 (and even more because I mixed a few custom colours). The intricate nature of the design proved to be quite the challenge, but it was all worth it because MISS YOU is a must read. 


*dramatically strums awesome book harp*





The back jacket, from Goodreads:


Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . . 


Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects. 


Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be. 


For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.


Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?
___

Minor Bias Disclaimer: I have a personal connection to MISS YOU's premise because my hubs and I grew up in the same area, but never met until we were in our twenties. We often say that if we'd met any earlier, we wouldn't have liked each other very much (we actually think we would've hated each other 😂), so I was interested to see how MISS YOU tackled the topic of having to meet a person at the exact right time in order for them to connect.


Cover design by Bonni Leon-Berman. Artwork by Jimmy Pierney.


Unfortunately, things started off on a sad note when Tess and Gus found themselves overcoming major, life-changing obstacles they hadn't anticipated. Both ended up making sacrifices for their respective families and for the most part, they were ignored and taken for granted. Like most people who aren't seen for who they are--who live in the shadows of others--Tess and Gus became resentful, which trickles into most of the decisions they make. At times, that made them kind of unlikable. I mean, I've felt my fair share of resentment along the way, and its toxicity is hard to manage, but understanding their motivations didn't mean I supported their actions. But MISS YOU is more than two separate stories, because the whole time Tess and Gus navigated their ways through choppy waters, they were unknowingly rotating around each other like two boats lost at sea. 

The almost-encounters continued for sixteen years and I never knew when another would happen, but when it did, there was always a POV switch. Eberlen created full scenes, bursting with descriptions, which both characters described from their own perspective. The overlapping details--what felt important to each character--were some of my favourite parts. And without fail, whenever the POV shifted, my breath would catch in my throat, wondering if it was the day they'd meet. Each time they missed each other, my growing anticipation kept the tension high, which was good because there were moments when Gus, in particular, was hard to sympathize with. I did, though, because all he really wanted was to be happy. He wanted it so badly he ached. Tess was the same way. Through the ups and the downs, blocked by family responsibilities and hurt feelings, they were desperate for love. Oh, my heart when were they going find it?!




But at some point in every adult's life, there comes a point when you need to take accountability for your actions, and that's when I really started to root for Tess and Gus. They both recognized the source of their unhappiness and slowly but surely began to put the past to bed. Starting over when you're in your thirties is scary, but it's scarier to stay stuck. In the end, these were a pair of very real characters who took a winding pathway to find themselves. Eberlen did a stellar job demonstrating that in order to love another person, you have to love yourself. The ending was a bit rushed, but still totally satisfying. So if you want to read a non-traditional romance with a dash of European travel, this is the book for you!!

Huge thanks to Harper Collins Canada for sending me a copy for review!



___

As I already told you, this mani required 28 polishes so get ready for a huge list. Haha!

OPI - Towel Me About It, Fearlessly Alice, My Twin Mimmy, Need Sunglasses?, I Am What I Amethyst, In My Back Pocket, Gargantuan Green Grape, Tiramisu for Two, Suzi Has A Sweet Tooth,  A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Do You Lilac It?, Mod About You, and matte top coat

Julep - Payton, Ilsa, Nayley, and Kenna

Fingerpaints - White on White and Inkblot Blue

China Glaze - At Vase Value, Too Yacht To Handle, Trip of a Lime Time, Def Defying, Boho Blues, and Mix and Mingle.

ORLY - Thrill Seeker, Charged Up, and Paradise Cove

Trimmed striping brush and nail polish thinner












31.3.17

book review and cover mani: wintersong

Last month, I won a copy of WINTERSONG. After seeing it everywhere in the bookstagram world, I was super psyched to dig in. Some reviews suggested that WINTERSONG was a retelling of Labyrinth, but I didn't find that to be the case. Yes, they both feature the Goblin King, and the protagonist is a teenage girl, but WINTERSONG is a wholly original tale that I gobbled up like grapes on a platter. 



The description, from Goodreads:

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones's Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

___

Dark and mysterious characters are my jam and the Goblin King totally qualifies. Although the narration was from Liesl's point of view, for me, the Goblin King was the real star. There's a saying in the writing world that an antagonist is the hero to his/her own story, and WINTERSONG is a perfect example of how to create that sort of dimension. It's easy to have a villain act so evil they basically walk around while petting a hairless cat, but to have me questioning how the bad guy became the bad guy? Yes please. As the book went on, I felt overwhelming sympathy for the Goblin King (why can't I know his name?! Can you imagine not even having a name?! *heart pang*) which meant that as much as I wanted to root for Liesl, I had more of a desire to see the Goblin King come out okay. 


Jacket design by Danielle Christopher. 
Jacket photographs: snowglobe © Amy Weiss/Arcangel; flower Natalie Miller/Arcangel


In addition to the sympathetic Goblin King, I really loved WINTERSONG's musical components. I'm not a classical music aficionado, but the vivid descriptions of how Liesl played--what she felt while the music surrounded her--moved me. For Liesl, music is life and her intensity leapt off the page. In a world that told her to stay in the shadows, she didn't squander her opportunity to grow and take hold of her desires. Err...eventually, anyway. She didn't start out that way. Haha! I loved watching her self-confidence grow and she wasn't afraid to toss out a cutting remark here or there. Obsessed with her looks, or lack thereof, the underground world of the goblins turned out to be exactly what Liesl needed. The complexity of feeling furious and grateful worked beautifully. 




Before I conclude, there is a topic I want to discuss. I'm not a fan of romances with enormous age gaps. It feels icky. Seeing Hugh Hefner with a woman in her thirties puts a gross taste in my mouth, so having a centuries-old character with a teenager, even in fiction, makes me squirm. And not in a good way. It's the one consistent bone of contention I have with YA fantasies. WINTERSONG had a touch of "generationally old male character condescends to a teen girl," but not enough to turn me off, and although there was an added creepiness factor that he knew her as a child, it was addressed in a non-threatening way. S. Jae-Jones was smart here, in my opinion, because the focus of the Goblin King's affection was predominantly directed towards Liesl's music and playful personality, which meant he didn't see a child in a sexual way (until she turned 18 but does that really put her on a level playing field with a legitimately older love interest...). Anyway, while WINTERSONG had some yellow flags for me, in this regard, they weren't blazing red like in some others (which I didn't continue reading). 

So if you're in the mood for a dark and beautiful adventure filled with goblins, music, and a woman learning to claim her space in the world, WINTERSONG is the book for you!



__

For this mani, I used:

Essie - Go With the Flowy

OPI - Alpine Snow and Stay Off the Lawn!

China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

Julep - Millie and Eliana

Triangular makeup sponge, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9, and a trimmed striping brush








24.3.17

book review and cover mani: the lonely hearts hotel

I'm the sort of person who loves to make a list. Whether it be for cleaning the house, getting tax info together or planning a party, when all the boxes are checked, I ride that wave of endorphins like a majestic dolphin. In addition to being on Goodreads, I'm also part of the 50 Book Pledge. The two sites are similar, being they both help me keep track of the books I've read, while also seeing what my friends are up to, but the 50 Book Pledge has a major difference. Badges. Not every book has a badge, but some do. The site has a list of them. *glances back to the first sentence of this paragraph*

That's how I came to pick up THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL. Because I wanted the badge (alllllll the badges, actually, haha!). It took me a little longer to read, due to the heart-hurting sadness, but it was also a phenomenal story and I'm excited to tell you about it. 

*points*




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future. 

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one's origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen. 

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they'll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O'Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.
__

It shouldn't have been a big shocker that a book set during the Great Depression, involving orphans, would be sad but wow, was THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL ever sad. Like, I-don't-know-if-I-can-continue kind of sad. Yes, there were glimpses of how strong the human spirit can be, but it was also heartbreaking.

Side note: why aren't nuns the nicest people ever? I mean, they work for the Big Guy Upstairs, but aside from Maria and Mary Clarence, I have yet to read about a warm and cuddly nun (plus, I'm not sure that Mary Clarence even counts, which means Maria is the only one). They're mostly brutal disciplinarians who don't seem to like children in the slightest, and some are downright abusive. Who on earth put those sorts of nightmares in charge of children?! 

Anyway, as you can tell from my side note, the nuns in charge of Rose and Pierrot's orphanage are not of the Maria variety, which made their childhood extremely difficult to read. But the good news is their horrific childhoods served as a launching point for the two entertainers, and it had me rooting for them to a degree that bordered on painful. Because OMG, they deserved a better life. 


Jacket design by Grace Han. Jacket photographs ©
 Getty Images (Starry Sky), F.B. Johnson & Company C. 1985 (Woman Standing on Crescent Moon)


As the book continued, it didn't get much better. I mean, the awful nuns were gone, but Rose and Pierrot's lives were still filled with tragedy. If it weren't for the tiny flickers of hope (and the badge, haha), I would've put THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL in my DNF pile. I mean, my heart can only take so much. However, there was another component of the book that kept my interest: the writing. Although heavy on the metaphors and similes, O'Neill created a magical, whimsical tone:

"On the front arch of an old abandoned bank there was a gargoyle of an angel lying on its back, looking up at the clouds in the sky, having lost complete interest in the world." <-- I mean, come on. A gargoyle is suddenly super interesting. That's some crazy-good writing.

Through death, drug addiction, prostitution, rape, miscarriages, and violence (a lot of violence), Rose and Pierrot remained somewhat detached. If you watch/have read The Magicians, there's a part of the heart--the one that holds pain, grief, and most of one's conscience-- called "shade." For me, Rose and Pierrot didn't have their shade. They went through life numb, to a degree. The world greeted them with agony, so they became accustomed to it. That was probably the saddest part of all, for me. However, I didn't pity Rose and Pierrot. Quite the contrary, I admired them. Chasing your dreams, no matter how many detours you take along the way and how many times you're told to forget them, is a quality that few possess. Despite every obstacle, those two kids reached for the stars.




So look, you may be wondering how the heck I can recommend this book to others, because it's such a downer. Frankly, I'm surprised myself, as I tend to stay away from novels like THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL. It's graphic, in every possibly way, and despite what other reviews have said, I don't agree that fans of THE NIGHT CIRCUS would be into THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL, but if you're looking for a book that challenges the way you see the world--that tears the blinders from your heart and shows you a human experience you'd rather believe doesn't exist--then this is the book for you. But, uh, have something super light and fun locked and loaded for afterwards. Trust me. 


___



For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Queen B and The Outer Edge

OPI - Rollin' in Cashmere, Alpine Snow, and matte top coat

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

ORLY - Wild Wisteria and Charged Up

triangular makeup sponge, trimmed striping brush