review and cover mani: rituals

I’ve said it once, probably twice, and I'm going to say it again: 2017 is KILLING it, in regards to fiction releases. From adult to YA, fantasy to contemporary, thrillers and mysteries, literary, and stories with so much heart that I’m left clutching a throw pillow and weeping, there's been something for everybody. And in terms of where the final book in the Cainsville series, RITUALS, lies, it's firmly in the weeping category because omg I can't believe the series is over!


A note before I continue: There’s no way I can write about RITUALS without revealing series spoilers, even though I want to because I have thoughts and feelings about it. Since I have no desire to rob potential readers from discovering Cainsville's treats and tricks on their own, I’ll use this review to rave about the series as a whole (minus any details). But, you know, I still did a mani for RITUALS because when I love something, I need a nail art tribute. Haha!

The back jacket description for the first book, OMENS (to maintain my spoiler-light review):

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.


There are many incredible threads that make up the Cainsville quilt, which makes it hard to pick only a few to discuss. I mean, just look at what’s happening in the first book. Time to break out the dark and ominous tones, eh? Serial killer parents, random small town, mysterious abilities, powers lurking in the shadows, and that’s only ten percent of the awesomeness.

Jacket images: (Front) Roy Bishop / Arcangel Images; 
(Sign) Clipart Design, both dreamstime.com

All of that awesome was connected to Olivia Taylor Jones, so I suppose she's a good place to start. Watching Liv's growth throughout 1,500 pages, give or take, was nothing short of remarkable, and she became one of those characters I’d invite to an imaginary dinner party because she’s my sort of gal: confident but vulnerable, assertive, witty, with a bit of a mouth. She didn’t quite start out that way, which is why the series is so good, because while Liv navigated her way to the truth, she claimed herself. Through the escalating plot complications, my favourite part of Olivia’s personality emerged: her ability to accept the obstacles blocking her way, and then maneuver around them. That cunning nature kept Liv's shoulders high because she knew she could take care of herself. No "why me" or whining here, folks. Not for a second, even when things were pretty grim. And I dig that about a woman. 

With that said, just because Olivia didn't need help didn't mean she wouldn't take some. Gabriel, an attorney, was one of the few people she let in, although it came with complications. Even so, he was a level-10 smokeshow and while reading RITUALS, it occurred to me that Gabriel and ACOMAF’s Rhysand could be brothers, which confirms that yes…I have a type. Haha! But as a teaser, just in case you're the sort of reader who likes romance with her mysteries, there’s actually more than one level-10 smokeshow! Err…level-9, actually, although because smokeshow-ness is subjective, you may rank smokeshows differently. But either way, you'll need a fan because things get hot. 

I can feel my fingers itching to keep going, but I fear that enthusiasm will overpower my desire to stay spoiler-light, so to sum up, if you're into strong female protagonists, folklore, creeptastic towns loaded with secrets, love triangles (but like, a good one that kept me on my toes throughout five books, which is saying something), steamy scenes, mysteries that unravel like a knotted ball of yarn--never in a straight line--served with a consistent trust-no-one vibe, you need to read the Cainsville series.

I can’t stress it enough.

You need. To read. This series. 


For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints - Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

China Glaze - Chroma Cool

OPI - matte topcoat

Mitty Burns - Minty 0 and Clean Flat Pro brushes

Fan brush from nailpolishcanada.com


review and cover mani: the good daughter

It’s no secret that I’m a mega Karin Slaughter fan. Ever since I read PRETTY GIRLS, I’ve steadily been making my way through the Will Trent series, along with every standalone Slaughter has released. And thanks to the super awesome folks at Harper Collins Canada, who made my whole life by sending me an advanced copy of THE GOOD DAUGHTER, I was able to get an early read. Wooooooot!    

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author — a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn's happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville's notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father's footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it's a case that unleashes the terrible memories she's spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won't stay buried forever…


If you’ve read anything by Karin Slaughter, you’re aware that it never takes long for things to get dark, and that’s the case for THE GOOD DAUGHTER as well. But to paraphrase the front cover blurb by Gillian Flynn, I’ll follow Karin Slaughter anywhere, because although she has a remarkable knack for writing graphically violent scenes, they aren’t gratuitous. Instead, they create a necessary baseline and in this case, I needed to know where Charlotte and Samantha Quinn began in order to understand their behaviour as adults. And at its core, that’s what THE GOOD DAUGHTER is about: how Charlie and Sam were affected by a horrific night in their childhood, and the memories that resurfaced when another crime occurred, twenty-eight years later.

Cover design by Joe Montgomery
Cover photographs: © Michael Trevillion/Trevillion Images (woman);
© Balazs Kovacs / Arcangel (match detail)

Raised by a ferociously intelligent mother—one who could spurt out technical and scientific facts like a Wikipedia page (only correct)—and a father who followed his conscience at all costs, even to the detriment of his family, Charlie and Sam didn’t shy away from claiming their space. Both women had strong senses of self, and were aware of their challenges (whether they faced them or not) and it was refreshing to read two flawed female characters who didn’t apologize for themselves. That said, they were each fairly emotionally stunted, because not dealing with the aftereffects of traumatic experiences doesn’t mean they go away, but their hearts, beaten and battered as they were, remained open enough to feel sympathetic towards others, which served them well.

To keep it real, it’s been a challenge to write this review because there are so many specific elements I want to share. I won’t, of course, in order to keep things spoiler-free, but I will say that THE GOOD DAUGHTER is one of the most remarkable psychological suspense novels I’ve ever read. I was enthralled with Charlie and Sam right from the beginning. And as the novel continued, the sisters' deepest thoughts, blind spots, fears, hopes, and dreams were up close and personal, to the point that it sometimes felt intrusive. Fascinating, mind you, but painfully intimate, and during certain scenes, I morphed into a ball of weepy disaster, fearing that my heart had actually broken—a new experience for me in regards to Slaughter's work.

So while the graphic nature of THE GOOD DAUGHTER may not be for everybody, the raw emotional content is worth the risk. Ultimately, I felt uplifted by this twisty, painful, and grounded tale, with a heavy dose of police/legal procedural, and if I could give it more than five stars, I would.

Massive thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an ARC!


For this mani, I used:

Kb shimmer – Shade Shifter

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

OPI – Rollin’ in Cashmere, Samoan Sand, My Twin Mimmy, and matte topcoat

Julep - Nadine

Mitty Burns – Minty 0 and Clean Flat Pro nail art brushes


review and cover mani: the last magician

You know how sometimes you fall into a book so deeply, you kinda start to believe you’re part of the world? Having vivid dreams that linger all day and drifting off during check-out at the grocery store? It’s only happened a couple of times for me, both being Feyre/Rhysand related, but now I have a new addition to that exclusive list: THE LAST MAGICIAN, and I’m basically jumping up and down right now because I’m so excited to tell you about all the awesome!!

*book emerges from mystical cloud of smoke*

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.


By about a quarter of the way into THE LAST MAGICIAN, I was fully invested, but to keep it real, I needed a few chapters to acquaint myself with the rich writing and thoughtful tone. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was the right sort of book for me, as I usually gravitate towards zippy plots, and a high level of description—character’s thoughts, setting, and backstory—slows things down. However, when done well, that sort of detail creates an immersive reading experience. A 360 degree view, if you will, which is what Maxwell accomplished with THE LAST MAGICIAN. In fact, it’s the sort of book that makes me grateful for third-person narration, because not only did I get Esta’s point of view, with opinions and feelings she never would have articulated in first-person, but several other characters received the same treatment and the end result was phenomenal. 

Cover designed by Russell Gordon
Front cover title typography and photo-illustration copyright ©️2017 by Craig Howell

Being an avid reader and reviewer, I’ve recently seen Twitter debates about historical authors giving too much agency to female characters, in times where they had little. To that, I say:


I mean, I guess there’s a point in there, which I’m sure could be mansplained to me by a self-proclaimed expert, but who the heck cares? This is fiction, people, not a textbook! They have no duty to be a realistic portrayal, their duty is to tell a story. That said, I give major props to how Maxwell handled this “controversial” concern, because at all times, Esta remained aware that she was a woman with twenty-first century sensibilities, living in 1902 Manhattan. And although there were other strong female characters, Esta’s confident behavior drew more bewildered attention, and at times, she had to check herself. Male characters often found themselves both attracted and put-off by Esta’s personality and I had a few giggling moments when they were left scratching their heads. I also experienced a handful of verklempt moments, because certain scenes reminded me how far women have come when it comes to being seen as equal. SO TAKE THAT, HATERS. Maxwell smoked your complaint and did it in the most marvelous of ways. 

(Okay…that was kind of an unexpectedly long tangent and I’ve tried to whittle it down but can’t because I believe it needs to be said. Also, I know that technically, this is a fantasy novel, so the issue isn't 100% relevant, but in terms of female empowerment, it fits, so I’ll just leave it and move on. Haha!) 

To circle back to the 360 degree view of the plot, I really loved Maxwell's clarity, in regards to characters' dispositions and desires. Being able to anticipate reactions, and how those desires will inevitably collide with others, is one of the joys of reading. After spending 500+ pages with this rag-tag crew, I feel like Esta and her friends are part of my life, and now I’m on my knees in the rain screaming ESTAAAAA, as I have to wait an entire year to find out what happens next. BECAUSE HOLY THE END OF THIS ONE. “Mind-blowing” doesn’t even come close. Like, put a pillow on the floor, people, because your jaw is gonna drop.

So if you’re into YA novels with magic, intrigue, heists, with a dash of social commentary, this THE LAST MAGICIAN is the book for you!

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


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Sexy In The City and Chroma Cool

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

ORLY – Skinny Dip and Makeup To Breakup

Essie – Satin Sister

OPI – Towel Me About It, You Are So Outta Lime!, CIA = Color Is Awesome, and matte topcoat

Mitty brushes – Candy 00 and Clean Flat Pro