23.6.17

review and cover mani: every last lie

I nearly lost my mind when I first heard of Mary Kubica's fourth novel, EVERY LAST LIE, for two reasons. One, because I've read her previous three thrillers and each one was better than the last, but two (and most importantly) because it had a cover I could paint (each preceding one had faces and I'm awful not so great at those). I begged for an ARC and my prayers were answered by the lovely folks at Harper Collins Canada, who tracked one down for me to devour. Which I did. Swiftly. And now I'm psyched to tell you all about it (without spoilers, obviously). 

*sounds awesome book gong*




 The back jacket, from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow's pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 
"The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us." 
Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 
Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 
Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.
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Before I get into the nitty gritty of what I felt worked well in EVERY LAST LIE, I want to start with a blanket statement: Kubica's writing is bananas. I mean, it's always been great but there was some extra za za zu here. Her prose certainly has a literary edge and I had to look up a few words (always a humbling experience, haha), but there's a beat. A rhythm. A pulse. And that set the pace, grounding me in the story so I could submit to the experience of reading about Clara and Nick from page one, onward. 


Cover art by Sean Kapitain and Erin Craig.

The superb quality of writing made Clara's search for clues authentic, because Clara herself, felt authentic. She wasn't a detective or police officer, and had no previous experience with haphazard investigations, which meant that her discoveries didn't chart a steady course. So many clues were dismissed as quickly as they came, while others hit dead ends only to return later, more suspicious than ever. It was awesome. I felt like I was along with Clara for the ride, like I was actually the one sleuthing my way through the evidence. Well, except for the postpartum haze. And also the stress of having a parent with dementia. In addition to consoling a terrified toddler who keeps repeating spine-tingling phrases. Gah! So much craziness!

That set up, giving Clara conflict in every portion of her life even before Nick died, served as an excellent launching point for the plot. And combined with her grief and lack of sleeping, Clara went kinda cray-cray. But a sympathetic sort of cray, where Clara maintained awareness that she was losing touch with reality. The chaos of her situation--the stress, pressure, and panic--turned Clara's mind into a spinning a compass incapable of discerning the truth, and I couldn't get enough. (Does that make me sound mean? Haha!)




I did have a couple of moments where I was taken out of the story, and unfortunately, they were all in Nick's chapters. For me, Clara's strong voice and frantic energy overshadowed Nick's stiff POV, and it cut the tension. Maybe it was because his story had already happened, but his viewpoint felt like a lot of telling and not enough showing, which made it a challenge to connect.

That said, I still really liked EVERY LAST LIE. In fact, I'd argue that Kubica rules the genre of realistic domestic suspense. There's very little violence and instead, the character-based plot explored Clara's mind--the lenses through which she viewed the world. So if you're into suspecting your neighbours of burying a body, or wondering if the crossing guard who helps your kiddos has a penchant for identity theft, EVERY LAST LIE is the book for you! And you won't have to wait long because it comes out next Tuesday, June 27th! Woot!

Big thanks to Harper Collins Canada and Harlequin for a review copy!

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For this mani, I used:

OPI - Towel Me About it, In My Back Pocket, and My Twin Mimmy

FingerPaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

ORLY - Makeup Or Breakup

Essie - Satin Sister

Mitty brushes - Daisy 1.0 and Clean Flat Pro, along with a triangular makeup sponge



14.6.17

canadian nail stencil giveaway!

Living in the country, it can be a challenge to get my paws on professional nail products, which is why I've been a long-time customer of Nail Polish Canada. Their selection of piCture pOlish, China Glaze, ORLY, and nail art tools is pretty incredible, and they host a few nail art comps throughout the year, which I always love to enter. 

And now, I'm an even bigger fan of the greatest Canadian nail polish website because they're giving away free nail stencils!! Yes, in honour of Canada's 150th year of being awesome, Nail Polish Canada is helping fellow Canucks celebrate by having festive, maple leaf nails. They aren't just any old stencils, though. Nope, they're from the company I trust the most when it comes to nail vinyls. Obviously, I'm talking about What's Up Nails.




Today, June 14th, bloggers across the country are posting codes and the first 10 people to use each blogger's specific code will snag themselves a sheet of 20 Canadian flag stencils. Each set has two different sizes of leaves, which can be used in two ways. I did a couple of manis so you can see what I mean. 

First, for those who may not have an extensive polish collection, or are nervous about using a stencil, you can use the centre sticker. Just place it on your nail, add a topcoat, and you're good to go! The vinyls are much thinner than traditional stickers, so you won't be left with a hard edge that can peel.


White base is Fingerpaints Paper Mâché. Loose, red hex glitter is from Amazon.


The second option is to use the stencils themselves, with the polish colour of your choice. What's Up Nails stencils bleed the least, but even so, it's important to remove the stencil as quickly as possible to achieve a crisp outline. Wait until the polish is totally dry and then add a topcoat to smooth out the surface.


White base is Fingerpaints Paper Mâché, Red is China Glaze Peppermint To Be, and the glitter is China Glaze Ugly Sweater Party.


Either way you use them, they're super easy. Just make sure your base coats are dry first, so you can shift the sticker and/or stencil around until they're in the perfect place. Insider tip: I always use a quick dry topcoat for my base colour, to speed up the process. 😊

So if you'd like to rock some festive nails for July 1st, click this link and then enter my code, X54J2TC5I2H: http://www.nailpolishcanada.com/products/free-canadian-flag-nail-vinyls-1-sheet-20-stencils-by-whats-up-nails.html 

This deal even includes shipping so what the heck are you waiting for?

Thanks so much to Nail Polish Canada for hosting such a fun giveaway!!



12.6.17

blog tour: saints and misfits



A couple of months ago, Simon & Schuster Canada hosted a preview event, where bloggers learned about upcoming YA and MG releases. That fateful Saturday afternoon, I heard S.K. Ali speak about her debut novel, SAINTS AND MISFITS. Her eloquence and enthusiastic personality elevated the room's vibe immediately, and then she revealed her stunning cover, which morphed me into a heart-eyed emoji.

*sounds awesome book horn*




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

____

SAINTS AND MISFITS stole my heart. Or rather, Janna did. And what I liked most about her was that she acted like a typical teenager, with the added bonus of being Muslim and wearing a hijab. She's quick witted, kind, hard working, and loves halal gummy bears. Candy: the unifying snack. Haha! Her life mostly consisted of staying on top of her enriched math schoolwork and participating in mosque events, but Janna also navigated her awareness of how her physical appearance affected others--how she was judged. Holding her faith dear while grappling with self-consciousness was a complicated issue for Janna to reconcile, and it became more of a challenge as the novel progressed.


Jacket design by Chloë Foglia
Jacket photography copyright © 2017 by Samia El-Hassani


Each chapter was titled either Saints, Misfits, or Monster, either singularly or in combinations, and it helped set the tone. The categorization method belonged to Janna and she easily identified who fell into which category, although they weren't necessarily cemented. Well, except the monster. 

That brings me to the core of SAINTS AND MISFITS. I've struggled on whether or not to share the monster storyline, because I really try to make sure I don't include spoilers. In fact, I've drafted this part of my review several times, changing my mind and then changing it again. Ultimately, I've decided to leave it a mystery, but I will say this: SAINTS AND MISFITS is important. Like, in the realm of THE HATE U GIVE important. Teenagers deal with a lot of crap; adult issues they should never have to face (nor should anyone, for that matter) and watching a character reclaim their power--stand up to those who want to crush them, even when they're scared--is a necessary and timely message. Janna's ability to persevere, be thoughtful and logical but also trust her gut, moved me. A transformation took place, one that didn't feel contrived or forced. Instead, her journey had highs and lows, just like life. And the most important part? Janna never surrendered. She processed her experiences in her own time, and sought out a resolution that worked for her, despite what others thought she should do. This is the sort of novel that needs to be in every high school library, and part of mandatory curriculum for English/literary classes. So...uh...make it happen, school boards. Make it happen now!




So in sum, SAINTS AND MISFITS has a super cool protagonist who struggles with teenage drama (crushes! EEE CRUSHES!), and also with something much more significant. Janna's a smart, grounded, endearing character who may not know who she is, but knows she's more than what others see. And the message woven into the entertaining writing is strong and fierce. I'm honoured to kick off the SAINTS AND MISFITS blog tour because this is a novel that everybody has to read. Period.

SAINTS AND MISFITS comes out tomorrow, so make sure you pick up a copy! And thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a review copy!


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For this mani, I used:

OPI - Towel Me About It, Let's Be Friends, Mod About You, and matte topcoat

China Glaze - Intelligence, Integrity & Courage

Fingerpaints - Paper Mache, Black Expressionism, and Sketch Me

ORLY - Road Trippin

Mitty brushes - Minty 0 and Clean Pro Flat



9.6.17

review and cover mani: erotic stories for punjabi widows

June is shaping up to be an excellent month for phenomenal books, and the latest addition to that stack is EROTIC STORIES OF PUNJABI WIDOWS. The description of Sikh widows writing erotica was too enticing to resist, but this book was so much more than erotic stories. It's a novel with a dark side, one that exposes the way women are viewed in a small Sikh society in London, and in India. But don't let that scare you, because as dark as it gets, there's even more light. 



The back jacket description, from Goodreads:

A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.

Every woman has a secret life . . .

Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.


___

On the first page, Balli Kaur Jaswal's thoughtful prose made it clear that she is a storyteller--a writer who wants to weave a tale. I imagine she agonized over every word, every turn of phrase, every image, because they were damn near perfect. Her dedication (and heaps of talent, obvi) made for a strong start and I effortlessly fell into the rhythm.

Eeee! I frickin' love when that happens!


Cover by Holly MacDonald


I also love when characters behave unexpectedly, and the widows in Nikki's writing class certainly qualified. I mean, they're the community's elders, and chose to spend their English classes sharing stories about cucumbers, garden hoses, pulsing knots, throaty moans, and clay sticks. The contradiction between my previously-conceived notions of how a Punjabi widow would behave and what the characters actually said was remarkable and entertaining. Also hot. Very hot, in some instances. I swear, I'll never look at a gaggle of older women the same way again. Especially if they're Punjabi. 😉 




But that's not the only storyline. Within the humorous, uplifting moments where women embraced their sexuality, EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS addressed serious topics. The description alludes to a scandal but it's more significant than that. Obviously, I can't talk about the "scandal" in detail without including spoilers and I'm kind of frustrated because it's where the book really shined. And I'm not just talking about Nikki, although she was involved. In fact, the greatest journey belonged to the second narrator, and it was equal parts moving and enraging. That blend of light and dark is why I'll be recommending this book for a long time to come, because there's an unflinching honesty here. One that needs to be acknowledged. Also there is erotica. So you know, it covers a lot of bases. Haha! If you're in the mood for an entirely unique, charming, and diverse read, EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS is the book for you!

EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIVES comes out on June 13th, so set your calendars! And big thanks to Harper Collins Canada for a review copy!




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For this mani, I used:

OPI - My Twin Mimmy, Alpine Snow, and matte topcoat

Julep - Octavia

China Glaze - I Got A Blue Attitude, Under The Boardwalk, Trip of a Lime Time

ORLY - Wild Wisteria and Paradise Cove

Mitty brushes - Daisy 1.0, Minty 0, and Clean Pro Flat





1.6.17

review and cover mani: the weight of lies

Last month, Emily Carpenter reached out to me, asking if I'd like an ARC of her sophomore novel: THE WEIGHT OF LIES. Earlier this year, I read Carpenter's debut and loved it, so this was my reaction:


http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/75202587899/the-best-gif-ever


I started reading on Saturday night, snuck in chapters throughout Sunday (when we had company) and then stayed up until midnight in order to finish. Because I burned through this bananapants mystery within 24-hours, it should come as no surprise that THE WEIGHT OF LIES gets my must-read recommendation, and I'm super psyched to use the rest of this post to convince you of its awesomeness.




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.
 

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Oh em gee, folks, there are so many things I loved about THE WEIGHT OF LIES that it's a challenge to figure out where to start. The dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship? Bonny Island's creeptastic vibes? Meg's ability to be a sad-sack and also fearless? The murder that may or may not have happened? How do I choose?!


Cover design by Rex Bonomelli.

Okay. Let's start with Meg, because she's the protagonist and first-person narrator. I didn't instantly like her, mostly because in the first chapter, Meg's sitting by the side of a swanky hotel pool in Las Vegas, feeling sorry for herself. She lives off a trust fund, has friends named Aurora and "the Glitter Girls," and receives a hand-delivered birthday party invitation from her mother. Like, come on. Hand delivered?! *eye roll* But Meg's reaction to that invitation is what changed my initial opinion. Her outer layer shed, revealing her vulnerable core. Just like that, she let me in. She put up walls to protect herself from others, but not from me, the reader. So from the third chapter forward, I was Meg's fiercest cheerleader. 

The setting was probably my second favourite element of THE WEIGHT OF LIES. Carpenter s-l-a-y-e-d the unsettling and mysterious Bonny Island, and like in BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS, the atmosphere was crucial to the plot. When an author can create a threatening environment--a force that demands respect--it automatically adds tension. Running in fear is one thing, but running in fear through hostile and unstable terrain, where danger lurks in every tree and meadow, it's down-right terrifying. And holy hotcakes, is Bonny Island a nightmare. 



Then there's the dysfunctional relationship. THE DYSFUNCTION I CANNOT. Meg and Frances were like opposing magnets. Any attempts to bring them together were strained and explosive. And it only got worse as the novel progressed. The plot itself had a killer pace (haha, had to do it) and doesn't unfold in a linear fashion, which made it extra awesome. Also awesome? There were excerpts of Frances' horror novel at the beginning of each chapter, syncing the fictional novel with the real one. So it's firing on all levels, folks. ALL. LEVELS. Oh, and have I mentioned there's some super cute male eye candy? Because there is. And he was delicious. 

If you love mysteries that feature volatile characters, cold cases, and gripping plots, you need to read THE WEIGHT OF LIES. And then BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS. Because there's a new heavyweight in atmospheric mysteries, and her name is Emily Carpenter.  

THE WEIGHT OF LIES comes out next Tuesday, June 6th. Mark your calendars, people!!

ps. Emily, you're forgiven. 😉



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For this mani, I used:

OPI - Alpine Snow, In My Back Pocket, Chicago Champagne Toast, My Twin Mommy, You Don't Know Jacques, Towel Me About It, and matte topcoat

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Sketch Me

Julep - Fiore, Lizzy, and Roc Solid

China Glaze - Rainbow and Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Mitty Brushes - Minty 0 and Clean Pro Flat







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.

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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!



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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!



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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!



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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!



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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