book review with cover mani: simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda

I've been working my way through the backlog of ebooks on my Kindle, and last week, it was time for SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Holy awesome book alert, people!! I laughed, teared up, and finished with a song in my heart. Gah! I loved it so much!

*stops hugging book in order to display the cover*

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Simon's voice was probably my favourite part of SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Articulate and upbeat, wry and insightful, Simon captured my attention right away. Like most interesting people, he wasn't perfect, and his endearing mix of confident insecurity made him supremely relatable. Coming out is no easy feat. Being a teenager is hard enough without worrying about sexual identity proclamations and yet, I never lost faith that Simon would get through. Battered and bruised perhaps, but he'd make it.

That said, I was still nervous as hell for him. There wasn't a lot of "action" in this book, but a ticking clock, in the form of Martin's blackmailing, created a sense of urgency. Even when Simon played it cool, he remained aware of the stakes--that he was at the mercy of another person--and his behaviour fell in line, despite Simon's reluctance. Ugh. Martin was the worst*! ๐Ÿ‘Ž

*Look, I get that Martin's character was also a teenager and he deserves some sympathy for his decisions, but he was still the worst. Understandably the worst, but the worst, nonetheless.

Along with the central blackmail conflict via Martin aka Monkey's Asshole (Simon's nickname, not mine, although I whole-heartedly agree ๐Ÿ˜), Simon also had to deal with typical social problems. Namely, jealousy, the trickiest of all emotions. But in between setting friendships on fire and tossing water on others, Simon fell more and more in love with his maybe-boyfriend, Blue. OMG, guys, it was legit the cutest thing ever! I remember a time when I emailed like crazy with my now-hubs, and reading Simon and Blue's exchanges brought me back. There's something special about writing versus talking. It allows the time to reflect before answering, lessoning the chance of an awkward moment. Simon's personality was so charming in those emails, it was no wonder that Blue fell under his spell. Like, is there a SIMON RULES t-shirt I can order? Haha!

So, in sum, you need to read this book, especially if you're feeling a little blue (see what I did there? ๐Ÿ˜†). There's romance, mystery, and in the end, you'll have a huge smile on your face, along with a few happy tears. Yup. This one's a must-read. And when you do get around to reading it (doitnowdoitnow), have a box of Oreos on hand. Also, Reese Peanut Butter Cups. At times, they're discussed at length and you'll definitely want to eat some. They're the perfect companion for this delicious book.

(OMG I just checked out Becky Albertalli's Twitter and SIMON is going to be made into a movie!!!! I AM FREAKING OUT. Here's all the info (but there are spoilers, so beware): http://beckyalbertalli.tumblr.com/post/156223996311/simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda-movie-meet-the)


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Red My Fortune Cookie
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mache
ORLY - Skinny Dip
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat
Black latex paint for the letters
A striping brush thinned out to near extinction and piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 10.


book review and cover mani: the vanishing year

I've seen this gorgeous book around IG, but somehow, it got lost in my TBR. ๐Ÿ˜ข However, it popped up during Kate Moretti's week on the Tall Poppy Writers' Bloom page (a super cool FB place where authors connect with readers, and each week, a different author hosts discussions). The timing couldn't have been better, because I was in the mood for a chilling thriller. I read the first few chapters over a couple of days, and then finished the last 70% in one night, staying up waaaaay too late. The sleepy day was totally worth it, so you know I had to paint my nails! Haha!

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her. As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely. 

The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.

Right away, THE VANISHING YEAR drew me in with its sense of unease. Zoe's husband seemed sketchy from the get-go and Zoe remained alert at all times, constantly evaluating other characters' behaviour, along with her environment. Happy, content people with nothing to hide don't normally do that, so it was clear that Zoe wasn't the most reliable narrator. 


My uneasy feelings continued to grow, thanks to the perfectly-placed flashback chapters, and before long, I suspected every single person in Zoe's inner circle. Twists abounded in THE VANISHING YEAR and my point-of-no-return came rather quickly, hence my sleepless night, and then something so insane happened that I had to use every ounce of willpower in my possession to not shake my hubs awake and scream: "I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK."

For reals. I...I don't know what else to say. The twisty plot knocked me on my ass, which is extra impressive because I was already horizontal. And they weren't "I didn't see that coming but now that I look back, it makes sense," kind of twists, either. Nope, Kate Moretti presented some straight-up literary awesome-ness, served with a side of "shut up, oh no she didn't," and it was the greatest thing ever. 

So if you love psychological thrillers, add this one to your list and then read it right away. Call in sick to work if you can't function on very little sleep because once you get past the first few chapters of THE VANISHING YEAR, you won't be able to put it down. Prepare your life accordingly. Haha! (But seriously.)


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Give Me Space and Towel Me About It

China Glaze - Too Yacht To Handle and The Outer Edge

Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat

Black latex paint

Makeup sponge and trimmed striping brush


book review with cover mani: the impossible fortress

With my love for glitter and the word awesome, it should come as no surprise that I was all about THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS. Set in the 1980s, and centered around a crew of three, fourteen-year-old boys who do everything they can to get their hands on a Playboy magazine, I was ten kinds of please let me read this! It was a positive joy to read, and I can't frickin' wait to tell you all about it.

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.


There's a significant possibility that you've seen this book already, because it came out yesterday, and if that's the case, you're probably all: What the heck is this cover, Jennie? It's not even almost like the one at the bookstore. 

The final cover

Well, I was lucky enough to get an ARC of THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS, and the cover changed between when I received the book, and when it was published. I didn't double-check before embarking on the most challenging cover mani of my entire life (OMG 90-degree angles and detail overload), and it turns out the joke was on me because the actual cover has a much less intricate design. Anyway, since I spent the better part of a day trying to freehand all the maze insanity, I wasn't about to redo it. Also, I ran out of matte top coat and my supplier was out too, which is why the cover and nails aren't in the same finish. So if you really think about it, this was an impossible mani, and in that case, it actually matches perfectly. Haha! 

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, on with the review!

This book was a fun, quick read, and if you know anything about 80s computer programming, you're going to be in heaven. Each chapter started with a bit of code, which made me giggle because it reminded me of when I'd watch my dad. For the record, I never understood what he was doing, but I still enjoyed being a small part of the process, which was basically eating Cheetos and not touching any of his equipment. Haha!

However, even though I don't have experience in vintage computer gaming, I do remember quite a bit about the decade. Pop-Tarts and neon colours and Bagel Bites, oh my! Rekulak got each one dead-on, so the setting became its own character, arguably my favourite.

I say arguably, because the three boys, Billy (Will), Alf (yes, like the alien), and Clark were endearing in their own weirdo ways. As supporting characters, Alf and Clark added a lot of fun to the plot, but Billy represented the rare teenage boy who's willing to act in a way that separates him from the pack. This is a boy who doesn't back down, even when he's terrified (actually, he did succumb to peer pressure at times, but hey, who doesn't? ๐Ÿ˜‰). And that, my friends, made me like him from the very first chapter.

In between the Playboy quest and comedic, teenage-boy quips (mostly by Alf), THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS offered a tale that seemed simple at first, and then became unbelievably complicated. As a reader, I could sense danger on the horizon. But the kids, like any normal teens, didn't share that foresight. Their determination didn't account for negative outcomes while my adult brain was all uh oh, spaghettio. As such, I found my anxiousness building, confident the bottom would fall out but not sure when it would happen. Kind of like watching a car with no brakes roll backwards down the hill. I knew it'd be bad, and the only question was how bad. Well let me tell you. It was bad. Like, car-rolled-into-a-Pop-Rocks-factory-and-exploded, kind of bad.

That said, THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is a book that makes you feel good. Yes, there were ups and downs, but at the end, the simultaneous story lines created a warm and fuzzy experience. I laughed, teared up, and ultimately felt uplifted. So if you're into a trip down memory lane that'll give you lots of positive feels (along with a few points of stress-eating tension) THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is for you! It was released yesterday, Feb 7, so find it at a bookstore near you! And if you're on Goodreads, there's a giveaway happening right now, up until Feb 21st. Woot!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me this ARC! (Which in no way affected my review; you know I keep it real!)


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Aquadelic, White on White, and Liquid Leather

OPI - A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find and My Dogsled Is A Hybrid

essie - after school boy blazer

Julep - Lissa

Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat

Thin striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no 9, and all the patience I possessed. 


book review with cover mani: I see you

Last year, I LET YOU GO made it into my top ten reads of 2016. Mostly because it was beyond bananapants. So when Clare Mackintosh released a new novel, I SEE YOU, I booted it to the bookstore and then read it in two sittings because OMG amazing. 

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you're going.

You're not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015.

I read a lot of thrillers. In fact, I'd argue that it's my favourite genre. As such, when I read one, I'm always on the lookout for the guilty party.

Oooo, that guy from chapter two loved skateboarding, and now a small wheel was found at the scene of the crime--it must be him!


Why would an author spend so much time focusing on hot air balloons in the distance, unless it means that the killer uses one to drop cement bricks on her targets?! THAT MUST BE IT.

The reason I've become a super fan of Clare Mackintosh is because my guesses are never even almost right. So in the off chance that a reviewer whines about the plot being "predictable" because they "totally saw it coming," that person should check their pants for flames. Sure, I may have deduced one small piece of the puzzle, but then there were seven consecutive twists and I was gasping like a guppy outside its tank.  

So this is why my review of I SEE YOU will be short. Mackintosh does a fantabulous job of misleading readers and I'm not about to spoil it for you. But I will say this: I SEE YOU is hella freaky. The concept--that somebody can be watching you without you knowing--is enough to make me carry pepper spray in my purse and use it on anybody who comes within three feet of my personal space bubble. Because really, in this day and age, it's a distinct possibility. Humans are creatures of habit. It gives us a feeling of order. But our routines make us vulnerable, and in the case of I SEE YOU, our predictability can lead to our demise. Why is Clare Mackintosh making everyday activities so terrifying?! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Because it makes for amazing reading, that's why. 

In addition to her crazy plots, Mackintosh's writing is rich, strong, and elegant, and the characters she creates could be people who live next door. Which is precisely why her books freak me out. Haha! If you like thrillers, suspense, or mysteries, you must read I SEE YOU. Also, you need to read I LET YOU GO. They're both standalones, so you can read this one first, but make sure you read them. 

And that's really all I have to say about that. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Alpine Snow and Matte Topcoat

ORLY - Skinny Dip

China Glaze - Liquid Leather and Sexy in the City

Trimmed striping brush and a triangular makeup sponge


book review with cover mani: hag-seed

As a birthday treat last month, I hit up the Penguin Shop, in Toronto. Having heard they were a small but mighty place to pick up signed books and various merch, I was super psyched! The staff were wonderful and full of suggestions, so deciding what to buy was pure agony. Eventually I settled on a few goodies, one being a signed book written by a Canadian author that makes me go all fangirly. Obviously, I'm talking about Margaret Awtood. Because...Margaret Atwood. (Yes, I'll always refer to her by both her first and last name.) 

NBD but Margaret Atwood legit touched this book and now I've touched it
no YOU stop freaking out. 
*freaks out*

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?


Confession alert: I've read quite a bit of Shakespeare in my day, but the Tempest is new to me. At first, I worried about not having a reference point for HAG-SEED, but my concerns didn't last long because Margaret Atwood did a great job of summing up the high points. If you have the same fear I did, rest easy. All you really need to know is that the Tempest, and therefore HAG-SEED, is about revenge. Dirty, manipulative, triumphant revenge. Which was fine by me because revenge is awesome to read about. Haha!

Only HAG-SEED was more than fine. HAG-SEED was straight-up awesome! Because Felix was pissed, guys and gals. He was wronged and not happy about it. And like any good super villain, after his humiliation, he retreated into solitude to fester over the unjust betrayal that befell him. That's not to say that Felix was a super villain though, because he's as human as you or I, but there were times he was probably spindling his fingers offstage. As such, he was fascinating to watch. Margaret Atwood's prose, filtered through Felix's desire for (metaphorical) blood, created an endearing, articulate voice, delivered with a dramatic flare. Ah-mazing. 

Wait. How have I gotten three paragraphs into my review without addressing HAG-SEED's unlikely setting of a prison? Not a jail, but a prison (one loosely based on the Kingston Pen). I swear, only Margaret Atwood could write a Shakespeare retelling with criminals named 8Handz and Bent Pencil. Like, what is even happening in this book?! Haha! A million awesome things, people; one million awesome things are what's happening in this book. It's dark, funny, touching, and sharp. So whether you're a Shakespeare fan or not, you need to read HAG-SEED. The extra bonus, aside from supporting a Canadian author, is that you'll feel a little bit smarter after you finish. Because Margaret Atwood. 


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Black Onyx, A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find, and Matte top coat.
China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage
White acrylic paint
Tools - trimmed striping brush.


top 10 reads of 2016!

Gah! How are we here already?!

No wait. This year, it's more like: Thank goodness this dumpster fire is finally over!! Unless, that is, you're in the minority of people who weren't ground underneath the vicious heel of 2016, in which case, refer to my original opening. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In any event, it's time for my top 10 reads of the year! Woot!

I’ll never be over this

Basic stats for the year: I read 80 books in 2016, and of those, I did full reviews and cover manis for 36. All of my top 10 picks are from the 36. 

As I'd expected, choosing a top 10 was excruciating, and I'll probably change my mind another hundred times until I hit post. But isn't that the best part of being a book lover? When your heart holds so much love that you feel bad to leave anyone out? The agony is delightfully painful. Haha!

Ready? Let's get to it!

*bangs awesome books gong*

10. I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around, by Ann Garvin

In a year where I read a lot of darker books, I needed a few to make me smile. I LIKE YOU JUST FINE WHEN YOU'RE NOT AROUND definitely worked in that regard, although there were also parts that brought tears to my eyes. Tig, the main character, was a gal after my own heart. She was dealt a spectacularly shitty hand, but she never let it get her down. Okay, so it did get her down, but she pushed through it, all the while unaware that a life shake-up was precisely what she needed. The prose was witty, wise, and accessible, and although there were truly sad parts, I felt lighter when I finished. 

9. Visions, by Kelley Armstrong

The Cainsville series took up a fair amount of time in my reading life, this year, and for good reason. They're bananas!! Of the first four, OMENS, VISIONS, DECEPTIONS, and BETRAYALS, the second one, VISIONS was my favourite. Although, truth be told, they're all pretty incredible. I love the paranormal elements, and even more so because Armstrong set the Cainsville series in present times, so there's an amusing mix of cell phones and faeries. Haha! The folklore references are absolute perfection, and the love triangle between three main characters feels fresh, which is pretty impressive because love triangles are a dime a dozen. I can't frickin' wait for the final book, due out in the summer of 2017, so don't be surprised if this series finds a place in my top 10 list of next year, too. Haha!

8. Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter

One of the regular topics of discussion that I have with a CP (critique partner) is that we have to go there--be unafraid to tap into the darkest places of ourselves, otherwise our work will suffer, and I swear there's nobody who goes there better than Karin Slaughter. In PRETTY GIRLS, for instance, Slaughter not only goes there, but she goes there and keeps on going. There's a scene in PRETTY GIRLS that still makes me shudder (I literally just made a face writing that sentence because now I'm remembering it.) A few characters in PRETTY GIRLS are effing terrifying, all the more so because they're people who could be your neighbours--people you'd have over for supper without wondering what's going on in their basements. But beware people. SO MUCH BAD IS HAPPENING IN THAT BASEMENT. I guarantee you won't see the twists coming, and you'll be absolutely floored with the second half. If you like dark (and I mean dark) thrillers, pick up PRETTY GIRLS (and then everything else Slaughter's written). 

7. The Perfect Son, by Barbara Claypole White

Of all the books I've read this year, THE PERFECT SON touched my heart the most. It's everything I want in a women's fiction/family drama, and the writing was exquisite. Similar to THE ROSIE PROJECT, the main character, Felix, was a bit of an emotional robot. But once I got into his head, I was able to see that he felt deeply. Felix desperately wanted to connect to others, but did it all wrong and wound up becoming a critical person. Gah. My heart hurts just thinking about Felix! In contrast, Felix's son Harry was lovely and endearing. The journey this family takes throughout an incredibly hard time drew me in from the first page, and left me physically hugging the book when I finished. Just make sure you have some tissues for this one. ๐Ÿ˜ญ

6. I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh

When it comes to thrillers, I LET YOU GO, is at the top of my list. This book was bananas squared. Manipulative, enticing, and heart wrenching revelations abound, and I couldn't get enough. It's also one of those novels that I don't want to tell you about. As such, my full review doesn't have much more, in terms of a description, because I LET YOU GO is something you simply have to experience yourself. So if you love thrillers that'll rob you of a good night's sleep, leaving you groggy throughout the day only to then stay up another night because you have to know what happens, this is the one for you! But maybe read it over the weekend so you don't get fired? Haha!

5. Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo

SIX OF CROWS, how I love you. So, so much. I flew through this book so quickly, that when I reread it before digging into the sequel, CROOKED KINGDOM, I relished the details I skimmed over because I was too ravenous to appreciate them, the first time around. Kaz and his crew were survivors who reclaimed power over their pasts, and were determined to get the job done, no matter what. The action never stopped, and I stress-ate many cookies because plans always went extraordinarily wrong (or so it seemed, at the time). Both books in the series are out, so this is one that you can binge on. But trust me, just buy the set. You'll wind up spending more money when you inevitably buy them separately (because there's no possible way you'll only read SIX OF CROWS). 

4. Home, by Harlan Coben

Longtime fans of the Myron Bolitar series freaked out while reading HOME, if I can judge by the intensity of several social media meltdowns regarding its awesomeness. (Note: I'm including myself here, haha!). The POV was a little different in HOME, and it let us inside a character's brain--a character who's always been a fan favourite--and it was my everything. In addition to having a twisty plot, the beloved cast was in full attendance, including Mickey and the crew from Coben's YA series. I'm trying hard to not think HOME is one of those "end of series" books (because that would be a major bummer), but that was the tone. However, even if you haven't read a Myron Bolitar book before, you'll still love the action packed plot and humorous dialogue, and you won't be too left out because Coben does a great job of summing up character relationships. 

3. The Fireman, by Joe Hill

There aren't many days where I don't think about THE FIREMAN at least once. I've lost count of how many times I've recommended it to others, and I even included a copy in a Christmas present to my dad. I found deep meaning in this apocalyptic tale, as it was all about "the other," and how even the most hideous elements can be beautiful. I still don't quite understand why THE FIREMAN is considered a horror, because I didn't find it particularly gory or scary, so if you're leery of that, I guarantee you won't have any problems. I'd even go as far to say that THE FIREMAN is a book that everyone should read. The message is crisp and clear, the writing is phenomenal, and there's a steady pulse to pull you through. 

2. Morning Star, by Pierce Brown

In the conclusion of the Red Rising series, Pierce Brown managed to raise the stakes to the point that I had to take breaks during my reading of MORNING STAR because I feared I'd have an actual heart attack. The tension was positively unbearable!! And like in the previous two books, Brown wasn't scared to kill off characters, so I lived in perpetual fear that my favourites would get the axe. Or the SlingBlade, to be more precise. The world building and its infinite moving parts was flawless, and Darrow was a character I cheered for, from the first page of RED RISING, onward. I'm seriously looking forward to IRON GOLD, which is a new book set in the same world as the Red Rising series, because I'm not ready to say goodbye to it yet.

1. A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas

I have a solid feeling that ACOMAF will make it to the top spot for many blogger countdowns this year, and that's because IT WAS THE BEST BOOK EVER. In fact, it's the first book that has compelled me to buy merch, and as of this post, I own three candles, fan art, and a bookmark (with more candles coming next week ๐Ÿ™ˆ). Because that's how incredible it is. I literally want be inside The Night Court with smokeshow Rhysand by my side (or on his knees? Is this too steamy to mention in a top 10 post? Haha!!). So yeah. Read this one. READ IT NOW. (But read the first one beforehand, A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, or you won't know what's going on, haha!)


So there they are: my top 10 reads of 2016! Were any of your favourites listed? What were your top books for the year? Is there anything amazing that I need to know about? Let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year, everyone! Be safe and have fun! ๐ŸŽ‰


book review with cover mani: heartless

Fairytale retellings are ten types of awesome. In fact, I may have a minor addiction to them. *glances at teetering bookcase* Whether the retelling is a beloved tale, turned on its head, or a continuation of concept that veers sharply into the unknown, I'm in. So like most of the YA reading world, when HEARTLESS was released, my hands had never been grabbier. That is, until my OwlCrate arrived AND THE JACKET WAS WHITE!! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

(Note: There are a lot of all-caps in this review. You've been warned.)

The synopsis, from Goodreads

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.


Queen of Hearts backstory yessssss (which I guess technically doesn't make HEARTLESS a retelling as much as a first-telling, but whatever ๐Ÿ˜†). Alice in Wonderland is such fun story, in any version, with its bizarre and enchanting elements, so I was positively pickled to see all that delightfulness in full form. Animals spoke, held down jobs, and enjoyed accessorizing their outfits; magic was as common as an acorn falling from a tree; and the usual cast of characters were in full attendance. And thank goodness because what's a story set in Wonderland without the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and White Rabbit? And even better, Meyer fully committed to writing certain parts of dialogue in convoluted riddles, so if you've been wondering if HEARTLESS stays true to the original story components: it does (and spectacularly well, in my opinion). 

In addition to the Wonderland-eqsue components of HEARTLESS, I was impressed with Meyer's interpretation of how Cath transformed from a sprightly teen to a vicious monarch. Cath was under enormous pressure to marry a man she didn't love, and her wishes were dismissed at every opportunity. That would totally make me Hulk-smash everything in sight, so I found myself rooting for Cath, even though I knew it wouldn't end well (you know, because the book is called HEARTLESS, and it's about the cruel Queen of Hearts ๐Ÿ˜‰). Because the Catherine that Meyer presented was determined, persistent, and unafraid to risk it all, no matter the consequence to herself--the basic recipe for a character I can get behind. Yup. I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'm officially a fan of the Queen of Hearts. ๐Ÿ™Š

My only critique would be the sluggish pace. The first half read slowly, I think in part to show how much Cath loved Jest, but it didn't hit for me. I'm not one for novels that are solely romances, but I'm happy that I stuck with it, because otherwise, I would've missed 150-ish pages of pure awesome. OMG SO MUCH AWESOME. Because while Cath's journey to the throne served as the primary plot, her journey was tied to other, very well known characters. HENCE THE ALL CAPS AWESOMEFEST AND ALSO POSSIBLY A SQUEAL. 

So add this one to your TBR pile, folks! Right now!


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - White on White, Liquid Leather, and Peppermint To Be
Red and black acrylic paint
Tools - trimmed striping brush and a small dotting tool


npc's holiday nail art competition!: nutcracker karaoke

It's been a loooooong time since I've posted anything but a book review, but it's time for Nail Polish Canada's annual holiday nail art competition! WOOT WOOT! I love participating in this fun challenge because it always gets my creative juices flowing. 

I usually lean towards humorous holiday nail art, and this year is no exception. And I don't say this lightly, but this may be my favourite mani ever, mostly because it's more than just a mani.

Confused? Intrigued? Keep reading! ๐Ÿ˜†

Over the years, I've slowly been collecting nutcrackers. So far, I have four, and I'm always on the lookout for ones that lock eyes with me and whisper, "Why hello there, Jennie. I'm pretty sure you want to bring me home." Not that intimate objects really talk to me, of course. *nervous giggle* 

In addition to my small crew, I have this shirt, which is one of my favourites to wear, this time of year (isn't ModCloth just the best?):

So the real question is how have I NOT done a nutcracker mani, yet? I mean... 

The hardest part was choosing which design to paint, because I wanted to take advantage of the open mouth element. I ended up smooshed different ideas together and came up with this:

His name is The Colonel Formerly Known As Prince and I love him. Hard. And the best part? HE CAN SPEAK! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

If you know me IRL, or have been reading this blog for a while, it should come to no surprise that as of this post, I've made approximately 10 videos of The Colonel, either singing or delivering messages to family and friends. Because what, like I'm not going to use my nails as a makeshift puppet? SURELY YOU JEST. Haha! Here's a compilation of the best three Christmas carols (and I only managed to giggle once, victory!!), which I've titled: Nutcracker Karaoke. 

Special shout-out to The Remix, for helping with the music!

So if you got a laugh out of The Colonel, I'd love your vote! Click here to go to the voting site. You don't have to register an account, but you will have to enter your name and email address (so that nobody can fake votes--we're watching you, fakers! ๐Ÿ˜‰). I'm listed under the "Vote for you fav," tab as jennieshaw.ca. The contest closes on December 18th, which means that if you'd like to enter your own mani, there's still time! ๐Ÿ˜Š Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

For this freehand, Nut-tastic mani, I used:

piCture pOlish - salt water
ORLY - Can't Be Tamed
Color Club - Eternal Beauty
China Glaze - Dance Baby
OPI - Rollin' in Cashmere, You Don't Know Jacques!
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat
Black, red, and white acrylic paint
Tools - trimmed striping brush, small dotting tool, small loose gold hex pieces


book review with cover mani: the fate of the tearling

After what felt like one million years (but was only a year and a half) THE FATE OF THE TEARLING finally made its way into my grabby little hands. I've been a mega-fan of this trilogy, since the first book, and I was beyond excited to find out how it ended. So much so that I stopped reading another book, in order to dive in. (Note: I have no memory of having done that before. In fact, I'd tried to keep going but FATE continued to stare at me from my bookshelf and, like a siren song, I could only resist for so long...which ended up being about three hours after bringing it home. #booknerdforlife)

*cues harp strings*

As with all series I review, I won't include the back jacket description because it contains spoilers for the previous books. Instead, I'll share the back jacket from the first book, THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, so you can get an idea of what the series is about. Also, you don't have to worry about my review containing spoilers of any description. I wouldn't do you like that. ;)

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING back jacket, from Goodreads:

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.


The Tearling Trilogy is, in a word, thought-provoking. The themes and plot are strong, and the characters are exceptionally fleshed out, but in THE FATE OF THE TEARLING, there was an added element--a totally unexpected element--that made me go all sorts of:

Because in THE FATE OF THE TEARLING, Johansan weaves the story in a way that enables her to make some points. Yep, homegirl has things to say and she's not afraid to say them. So while the internal and external plots centre around Kelsea, a young, badass queen, in a dark fantasy world trying to save her kingdom, there's much more at play. 

I've admired Johansen's writing from the get-go and now, I'm just straight-up in awe of her fierceness. Arg! I wish I could go into greater detail, but rest assured that Johansen came here to slay, folks. To the point that I wouldn't be surprised if a certain demographic wants to burn this series. Like, actually set it on fire. Luckily, I don't think that demographic would've picked it up in the first place, but for real. How unbelievable an achievement is that? To create art that has the power to polarize; to get underneath readers' skin and challenge the status quo? Johansen is basically the Sasha Fierce of the fictional fantasy realm, strutting into my imagination like:

The closest comparison I can make would be THE FIREMAN, by Joe Hill, which may not make much sense at first, because it's primarily considered to be a horror, but both novels wrestled with the same themes. Namely, what people are capable of doing in the name of what they believe, and how the tendency to label somebody as "other," no matter the intentions, never ends well, both for the labeller and label-ee. They also grapple with the idea of there being no such thing as a perfect society, because people, in their very nature, aren't perfect. Every single human is susceptible to becoming a bully and a dictator, with "absolute" truths guiding their actions. But what happens when you learn that your truth isn't as absolute as you think? Would you have the courage and fortitude to change your behaviour? These are the sorts of questions that Johansen (and Hill) pose, and just like in real life, there are no easy answers.

The only downside to Johansen's fierce (and incredibly relevant) conviction was my slight disappointment with the final instalment. Did the second and third blend together seamlessly? No. They didn't. Each book almost stood on its own, which meant that not every storyline was tied up.

So while THE FATE OF THE TEARLING went in a direction that I wasn't anticipating, I appreciate what Johansen was trying to do. If you repeat the same mistakes, you get the same outcome. But if you can summon the strength and awareness to break the cycle, you can pave the way to a new world. And through the battles, sieges, and moments of pure hopelessness, that's precisely what Kelsea does.

Now that the series is over, I have no idea what genre the three would fall under. For me, I guess it would be somewhere between fantasy, historical, and dystopian. But honestly, who cares? This is a seriously good series. Be warned, though, because there's no lack of extreme violence, misogyny, and bigotry. Johansen's note at the very end of FATE stated that was purposeful because our world is no stranger to those elements. See what I've been saying? Johansen is here to hold up a mirror to ourselves--to inspire us to think about topics that we take for granted--which is why I'll continue to read everything she writes. 


For this mani, I used: 

OPI - Rollin' In Cashmere, Yoga-ta Get This Blue, matte top coat
Julep - Eliza
China Glaze - Sexy In The City
Color Club - Over the Moon
ORLY - Skinny Dip
Black and white acrylic paint
Tools - small dotting tool, trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9


book review with cover mani: the kept woman

Karin Slaughter, guys.


Yes, this creepy baby is totally appropriate. 

Her writing is incredible, the characters she creates are uncomfortably dark, and the plots are beyond twisted. Yes, I said twisted in stead of twisty, because that's what makes Slaughter books so insane (and, if I'm being honest, kind of icky). She makes terrible things happen, and just when I think it's as bad as it can get, things always gets worse. Slaughter's books are the sort that seem strange to say that I loved, because the subject matter offers a buffet of the worst humanity has to offer, but they're completely enthralling. THE KEPT WOMAN, included. 

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Husbands and wives. Mothers and daughters. The past and the future.

Secrets bind them. And secrets can destroy them.

The author of the acclaimed standalone Pretty Girls returns with this long-awaited new novel in her bestselling Will Trent series—an electrifying, emotionally complex thriller that plunges the Georgia detective into the darkest depths of a case that just might destroy him.

With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.

Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn't belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found. 

Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.

But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.

Relentlessly suspenseful and furiously paced, peopled with conflicted, fallible characters who leap from the page, The Kept Woman is a searing novel of love, loss, and redemption. A seamless blend of twisty police procedural and ingenious psychological thriller, it marks Karin Slaughter’s triumphant return to her most popular series, sure to please new and diehard fans alike.


This was my first Will Trent book and I was worried that I'd come to the party too late. Thankfully, Slaughter's excellent backstory weaving explained the gist of several pre-existing relationships. I say "the gist" because there's no way she could've summed up seven previous books, but I didn't feel lost. I also have a strong suspicion that THE KEPT WOMAN was one of those series instalments that tied up a lot of loose ends (kind of like HOME did, with the Myron Bolitar series), so if you're familiar with Will and Sara, then you'll probably have your mind blown. But even if this is your first experience with them, I can still guarantee a fantastic read. 

My heart broke about a million times for Will--the GBI agent who's desperate for love and went to great lengths to protect a person who's done little to earn his loyalty. In fact, the person is a straight-up nightmare who uses and abuses Will. But Will doesn't waver. Not even when he's at risk and every bone in his body is screaming at him to stop. He doesn't want to be defined by his excruciatingly painful past and yet that's precisely how this awful person sees him. Worse still, they poked and prodded at Will until he did their bidding. It was painful to read, at times, but inside Will's struggle was enough hope and resolution to keep me from throwing myself down a hole of despair. 

And that's what THE KEPT WOMAN was really about. The murder at an abandoned construction site wasn't just a whodunit. No, it went much deeper than that. The crime dredged up the most painful parts of Will's past and put them on full display. In short, the investigation forced Will to confront his demons. And oh my, what intense demons, they were. OMG THE DEMONS, SERIOUSLY. *shudders and weeps*

I feel confident saying that THE KEPT WOMAN won't be for everyone. The violence is acute, and the plot is extremely dark; think crime and thriller to the max. But in addition to that, there's the light of the human spirit. It's buried pretty deep, underneath all the other awfulness, but its there, nonetheless. If you're looking for a single new title, or an entirely new series that doesn't hold back punches to your heart and throat, I think the Will Trent books are for you!


For this mani, I used: 

China Glaze - Wood You Wanna?
ORLY - White Tips and Luxe
OPI - CIA: Color Is Awesome, Rollin' in Cashmere, and matte top coat
Julep - Bea and Janae
Fingerpaints - Figure of Art and Black Expressionism
Tools - triangular makeup sponge, long striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 10, and a few hex pieces of glitter.