16.10.17

review and cover mani: the nowhere girls

I’m at a loss sometimes with how timing can work. It's a cliché for a reason, I suppose, and one I'll break out here because there must be a larger force at work when it comes to THE NOWHERE GIRLS. I mean, how could Amy Reed have known, years ago, that her incredible novel would be released during a year when the world stood up and actually acknowledged the prevalence of rape culture? Honestly, it’s staggering to me and I’m grateful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because THE NOWHERE GIRLS is contributing to a dialogue already in progress—a real, honest dialogue about what’s happening. And I believe this novel is from the front lines of the next generation of people who will eventually rise to power. Because while THE NOWHERE GIRLS is technically fiction, it also isn't. 

No. It isn’t fiction at all.





The back jacket, from Goodreads:


Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

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Where do I begin? It’s just so good, people. Like, up there with THE HATE U GIVE. Because THE NOWHERE GIRLS isn’t concerned with being non-confrontational. This is the truth without rose colored glasses and I’m here for a novel that has the guts to keep it real. Don't assume this book is a vigilante-style tale because it isn't. THE NOWHERE GIRLS is thoughtful, full of wisdom and collective experiences and ultimately uplifting. A remarkable feat, imho. 


Art direction by Jessica Handleman
Front cover design by Alex Robins. 
Jacket photograph copyright 2017 by Daniël Douglas/creative commons 3.0


Grace, Rosina, and Erin were engaging and grounded characters who didn't appear to have much in common, but each felt like their place was on the outskirts, which made them gravitate towards one another. Each strong point-of-view offered another view of the plot’s progression and with it, how their past affected the present; how they were more than what the world expected of them, and how conflicting it can feel when you’re torn between playing it safe or speaking out. Because it’s really easy to look at a story from the outside and make judgments.

She should’ve reported him. 
If she had reported it, she would've saved other from the same fate. 
But she was out drinking and wore a short skirt.
What did she expect, going to a party?

I could go on and on with those statements, thinly veiled judgments that condemn a survivor for what happened to her. They’ve been around forever, so much so that we’re all conditioned to default to disbelief. It’s such a complicated, mindbendingly frustrating pileup of garbage that women have to deal with, and it starts well before high school. I’m so grateful that this book was brave enough to tackle such a systemic problem without watering it down. The surprise fourth narrator, which appeared intermittently to act as a collective voice, didn't hold punches as it shared snippets from "everygirls." I'd argue that those chapters were the most powerful of all and you'll have to read the book to understand why. 




As much as the prevalence of rape culture in high schools was the driving force of THE NOWHERE GIRLS, it included another powerful message regarding teenage girls and their sexuality. Because yes, folks, teenage sexuality does, in fact, include girls. *cues gasps and clutched pearls* It’s frustratingly ragey that girls are still expected to protect their “purity” (implying they must protect themselves inherently means that they will encounter an attack btw) and then shaming them if they choose to disregard the rules placed on them. The result is that young women don’t get access to information, or attempt to seek it out in places that likely aren't female positive. THE NOWHERE GIRLS presents this curiosity in a truly accessibly way and my hope is it will encourage young women to think of their bodies as their own. Sexuality, included. Nothing shameful here, people. Move right along. 

In sum, if you’re an educator, you need to read THE NOWHERE GIRLS. If you work with teens, you need to read THE NOWHERE GIRLS. If you’re a parent, you need to read THE NOWHERE GIRLS. If you’re a teenager, or have been a teenager, you need to read THE NOWHERE GIRLS. If you’re male, you need to read THE NOWHERE GIRLS. Especially if you’re male, actually. Have I covered everyone? Perfect. Get it, read it, discuss it, and repeat. 


Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC.



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

Julep – Roc Solid, Dawn, and Gayle

OPI – Red My Fortune Cookie, You Are So Outta Lime, Suzi Has A Swede Tooth, Kiss Me On My Tulips, and Malaga Wine

China Glaze – Trip Of A Lime Time and Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Mitty Burns brushes – Candy 00, Peachy 000, and Clean Pro Flat

  


7.10.17

review and cover mani: don't let go

I love Harlan Coben's writing. For more years than I care to admit, I've been devouring every release, especially books in the Myron Bolitar series. Recently, Coben's been putting out more standalones and since I've read all of them, I can say with certainty that DON'T LET GO is my favourite. Love, mystery, conspiracies, humour, DON'T LET GO has it all! Woot!





The back jacket, from Goodreads:



With unmatched suspense and emotional insight, Harlan Coben explores the big secrets and little lies that can destroy a relationship, a family, and even a town in this powerful new thriller.


Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn't been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he's been looking for. 



When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

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There were a lot of layers in DON'T LET GO, and they were all equally delicious--a hearty slice of literary baklava, if you will. In some ways, Nap reminded me of Myron, because he was a dependable guy with an endearingly dry sense of humour. But Nap certainly differed as well, particularly with his obsession regarding what happened to his twin brother and high school girlfriend. Becoming a police officer as an adult didn't help much, and for a while, Nap basically conceded that he'd never know the details of why his brother was on the railroad tracks and why Maura disappeared. But when Maura's fingerprints are found at a murder scene, things cranked up to a hundred pretty quickly. Yay! 


Jacket design by Jim Tierney and Christopher Lin, 
based on an original design by Anthony Ramondo.


The pacing throughout this thriller was perfection, and Coben's knack for knowing the exact moment to end a chapter forced me to keep flipping pages to see what happened next. The story unfolded as Nap found clues and tracked down leads, and then the pot escalated and I was like: What is even happening this is bananas!! The first pages of the book explained that as a child, Coben knew of two rumours in his hometown. One involved a mysterious house, which was examined in the YA series with Mickey Bolitar, and the other, a military base, worked its way into DON'T LET GO. And that's why everything elevated to insane levels of crazy, because the addition of a conspiracy made the picture much larger than just a couple of kids who were killed.




The supporting characters around Nap were well-rounded and all held mysteries of their own. I just love when authors can weave subplots into their novels, because it means I'm trying to guess what characters are hiding at all times. One of Nap's longtime friends had a career which is close to my heart, and it made me fall even deeper into the story. Coben touched on a lot of relevant social issues, folks, and it was just the best. And then the ending made me all OMGGGGGGG.




So if you love thrillers that don't involve a ton of violence but oh so many mysteries, you need to read DON'T LET GO. I would've flown through it in a day, if adulting hadn't gotten in the way. Because there are a multitude of reasons why Coben's a consistent bestselling author. Nothing is every what it seems and you'll never see the twists coming. You'll also become terribly attached to Nap and his crew so don't start this book unless you have time to really dive in. Learn from my mistakes, folks, and set aside however long you think you'll need, because otherwise you're likely to get cranky when people won't stop piling work on your plate, as your mind will remain tangled up in Nap's determined investigation. And nobody likes a crankypants. ;) 



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For this mani, I used:

OPI - In my Back Pocket, A Good Man-darin Is Hard To Find

FingerPaints - Black Expressionism

Julep - Nadine

ORLY - Scandal

Glisten and Glow - Topcoat

Mitty Burns brushes - Candy 00, Peachy 000, and Clean Pro Flat

Triangular makeup sponge for gradient






28.9.17

review and cover mani: the blackbird season

THE BLACKBIRD SEASON is the second book I’ve read by Kate Moretti and my expectations were pretty high because I loved THE VANISHING YEAR. More character driven than TVY, it took me a minute to fall into TBS, but once it got going, I raced to the finish. Also, I’ve been dying to paint the cover ever since I saw it, so let’s get started with the review!





The back jacket, from Goodreads:


Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.

“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…

Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alicia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alicia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alicia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns. 

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It’s not often that I read a true ensemble mystery where there isn’t a primary character. THE BLACKBIRD SEASON has four narrators and together, they tell the story of Lucia, a missing student. The multiple points of view worked very well at keeping me on my toes because in my opinion, only one narrator appeared to be somewhat reliable, which meant that I questioned each piece of information that was presented. For me, that’s where the twists came from, and the complicated execution was pretty extraordinary. Like, Moretti must've had an entire wall covered in post-its in order to make sure characters didn’t inadvertently reveal too much at one time. It did make for a slow burn, because I got to know each character intimately, but the backstory was necessary for the second half’s rollercoaster ride. Moretti went deep with these characters, folks, which made the resolution all the more exciting.


Cover design by Emma A. Van Deun
Cover photograph by PlainPicture/Kniel Synnatzchke


My favourite narrator was definitely Lucia because her teenage-angst tone was totally on-point. Ultimately, I had a lot of compassion for her, which I think was by design. Including journal entries made her chapters almost uncomfortably personal and cryptic, like a carrot on a stick kind of deal. Was she the “reliable” narrator though? As if I’ll tell you! Haha! You’ll have to read THE BLACKBIRD SEASON in order to find out. But even if you suspect you wouldn't connect strongly with Lucia, there are three other narrators in play and like I said earlier, each one is rich, layered, and oh so dysfunctional. (Yay! Haha!) 




So if you like to see your stories unfold from a 360 degree view, never quite knowing where things will lead and who to trust, you need to read THE BLACKBIRD SEASON. And lucky you, it came out this week and is available wherever books are sold! Yay!


Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for hooking me up with an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Boho Blues and Plur-ple,

Julep – Gayle and Beverly,

ORLY – Charged Up

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

Mitty Burns – Minty 0, Peachy 000, and Clean Pro Flat nail art brushes

Triangular makeup sponge



22.9.17

review and cover mani: the trick

I was a little hesitant to request THE TRICK because it takes place during WWII (a hard time for me to read about) but the premise still piqued my interest and I thought it would count as a serious sort of read. You know, the kind of book that would make me feel smarter afterwards. Ultimately, I was surprised by this historical novel because although the subject matter included somber topics, there were unexpected pops of humour (which I guess makes sense considering it's called "THE TRICK" Haha!). Let me explain.



*stares at cover with heart-eyes*




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Sweeping between Prague during World War II and modern day Los Angeles, this deeply moving debut follows a young Jewish man in 1934 who falls in love and joins the circus as the country descends into war. Decades later, a young boy seeks out the now cynical, elderly magician in the hopes that his spells might keep his family together.

Prague, 1934: The fifteen-year-old rabbi's son Moshe Goldenhirsch marvels at the legendary circus magician known as the Half-Moon Man. Unexpectedly, he falls madly in love with the magician's delightful assistant, spurring him to run away from home to join the circus, which is slowly making its way to Germany as war looms on the horizon. Soon, he becomes a world-renowned magician known as the Great Zabbatini, even sought after by Adolf Hitler. But when Moshe is discovered to be a Jew, only his special talent can save him from perishing in a concentration camp.

Los Angeles, 2007: Ten-year-old Max Cohn is convinced that magic can bring his estranged parents back together before they divorce. So one night he climbs out of his bedroom window in search of the Great Zabbatini, certain this powerful magician has the power to reunite his family. 

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I’ve always been fascinated by magic, because having my mind blown is an awesome sensation. In fact, I'm at my happiest when I'm unable to even hypothesize how my exact card made it to the top of the deck while I thought I was still holding it. I suppose it’s because I want to believe in magic, that the unfathomable can appear before my eyes with no logical explanation and fill my heart with wonder. And it turns out that’s exactly what I had in common with Max. Oh how my heart sang and sank for Max! It’s Max’s desire to search out the Great Zabbatini in order to make his parents fall back in love that gets the ball rolling, and isn’t it nice when a plot starts out in such an innocent way? *insert heartwarming feels*


Jacket Design by Donna Cheng
Jacket Photograph © Cyndi Monaghan/Getty Images (Front)


As much as I liked Max, Moshe Goldenhirsch aka The Great Zabbatini was the more interesting character. No surprise since he’d lived a long life by the time Max meets him, and the majority of THE TRICK was Zabbatini’s story. And what a story it was! Moshe certainly had adventures when he ran away with the circus, transforming himself into a famous magician and then ultimately immigrating to the United States. Naturally, I won't share any details with you but suffice it to say, there was never a dull moment.




Along with two fabulous main characters, THE TRICK has a lot going for it, like thoughtful scenic descriptions and escalating stakes, but my favourite part was the voice. Holy moly the voice!! Similar to THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED, there’s a charming and quirky tone. The clever wittiness added a whimsical note to what could have been a devastating story and I found myself giggling pretty regularly. I mean, parts were still pretty heavy—Moshe is a Jew during WWII after all—but the overall story left me feeling uplifted. In short, Bergmann's prose was astounding and I feel the need to give him a standing ovation (from "The Voice" because I'm nerdy like that). 


http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/115914390362


So if you’re a fan of historical fiction, whimsical writing, and the power of magic, THE TRICK is the novel for you! It's available in stores now, gleaming from shelves with its stunning light teal and gold cover, which means you should splurge on a hard copy. Because for real, the jacket will add some class to your bookcase. 


Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Canada for a review copy!



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For this mani, I used:

Julep – Ali, Roc Solid, and Francis

OPI – Rollin’ in Cashmere, You Don’t Know Jacques, and Samoan Sand

China Glaze - Boho Blues

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

Glisten and Glow – topcoat


Mitty Burns – Minty 0 and Clean Pro Flat brushes