14.12.18

review and cover mani: watching you


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.

As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.

One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

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Two Lisa Jewell reviews in one year whaaaaaaaat? Yes, you read that right, fellow booknerds, 2018 was the year of Lisa Jewell and for that, we should be forever grateful. WATCHING YOU was another wild ride of suspense, told through multiple POVs from people who lived on the same street. Not friends, really, but friendly enough. That said, living in close proximity created a level of intimacy whether residents liked it or not—peeping out of windows at the perfect time, an overheard conversation in passing—which did a solid job of welcoming unpredictable moments, ones that turned my suspicions on a dime. Glimpses of activity without context led to assumptions, and those assumptions ultimately drove the plot. Sometimes, a narrator would explain their “suspect” actions, but the other character(s) wouldn’t be privy to the truth and man, it was just the best. The zig-zag nature had me burning through pages, because when one lead ended, another was right around the corner.


Jacket Design by Laywan Kwan:
 Photographs of Window frames by Corrado Piccoli/Eyeem/Getty Images; 
Vines by IStock/Getty Images; Window scenes by Istock/Getty Images.



Along with Jewell’s knack for suspense, she once again created incredible characters who felt so real, I was surprised I didn't run into them at my community mailbox. In WATCHING YOU, Jewell played on my first impressions of Tom, Joey, Freddie, and Jenna and then danced a jig of glee when she began to throw those impressions in my face. Or at least that’s how I imagined Jewell at her keyboard, a sly smirk on her lips as she turned everything upside down. What was a real clue? What was a red herring? The only way to know for sure was to keep reading, and it’s the best when a book makes me go “wait, WHAT?!” forcing me to flip back to previous chapters to see how I fell for expertly crafted misdirection. Oh yes, I do love to be made a fool haha!!



With lots of moving parts and secondary storylines, I flew through WATCHING YOU, and the final twist on the last page went out with a bang. If you’re a fan of suspense that takes place in close quarters, you definitely need to add this one to your TBR stack! WATCHING YOU hits shelves December 26th, and for a super fun bonus, Atria Books has generously offered up a finished copy for one lucky reader (which will be shipped after the pub date). Hello post-Christmas present to you, eh?! 🙌 

To enter, leave a comment here with your favourite holiday tradition, and head on over to Instagram for bonus entries! Giveaway closes on December 21st. Winner will be contacted by DM. Open to US and CAN only (sorry International!).

Big thanks to Atria Books for an ARC and finished copy!!




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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

OPI – A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Mod About You, In My Back Pocket, Need Sunglasses?, and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Street Style Princess, Emerald Bae, and Queen B

ORLY – Skinny Dip and Thrill Seeker

Julep – Mona

So Nailicious - Needle brush

7.12.18

review and cover mani: monsoon mansion



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.

Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Filled with her mother’s opulent social aspirations and the gloriously excessive evidence of her father’s self-made success, it was a girl’s storybook playland. But when a monsoon hits, her father leaves, and her mother’s terrible lover takes the reins, Cinelle’s fantastical childhood turns toward tyranny she could never have imagined. Formerly a home worthy of magazines and lavish parties, Mansion Royale becomes a dangerous shell of the splendid palace it had once been.

In this remarkable ode to survival, Cinelle creates something magical out of her truth—underscored by her complicated relationship with her mother. Through a tangle of tragedy and betrayal emerges a revelatory journey of perseverance and strength, of grit and beauty, and of coming to terms with the price of family—and what it takes to grow up.

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MONSOON MANSION. Wow. 

Woooooooooooow.

Wow.

That could honestly be my entire review because…wow. 

While reading, I had to remind myself this wasn’t a work of fiction. Cinelle Barnes’s enchanting voice had me nodding my head in a particular way (moving backwards with a twist) which happens when I know I’ve picked up one of those books. You know, where it’s clear on the first page that I’ll lose myself in the story, ignoring other tasks like feeding hungry dogs who can’t understand why their supper is late because I’m within reaching distance to the food yet won’t remove my nose from the page. In this case, my poor pups really didn’t stand a chance because Barnes’s voice mesmerized me, quite literally, from that very first page. Lush descriptions of the Philippines and the luxury of her early childhood when Mansion Royale preened in all of its glory, and the lyrical narrative transported me directly into the Cinelle’s world with whimsical yet grounded storytelling that felt like a privilege to read. 


Cover Design by Faceout Studio, Tim Green
Cover Illustration by Xinmei Liu

Essentially on her own when it came to providing safety and security, Barnes’s story reminded me of A Little Princess, because imagination was an invaluable asset in her unstable life. No matter what, Cinelle never stopped dreaming. As her situation became increasingly dire, my tears making it a challenge to continue reading, Barnes did what she had to in order to survive. My heart broke several times over, and I was continuously humbled by her astonishing ability to craft such a painful story and be brave enough to share it with the world. I don’t know if I would be. But there were also moments of humour and hope, kindness and grace--a wonder, considering the circumstances. 




Ultimately uplifting (in a triumph of the human spirit kind of way) if you love memoirs that don’t hold back and stunningly elegant writing that stays with you long after you finish the last page, I highly recommend MONSOON MANSION. Also, I’d be remiss without mentioning the gorgeous jacket (along with the book itself!), so you definitely need a copy on your bookshelf because hello beautiful! Five super enthusiastic stars, plus all the stars in the universe, so basically infinity stars. 

Big thanks to Cinelle Barnes and Amazon Publishing for a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

China Glaze – All Sun & Games, Water-Falling In Love, Werk It Honey, and Baroque Jungle

OPI – My Dogsled is a Hybrid, Malaga Wine, Stay Off the Lawn, CIA = Color Is Awesome, A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find, and matte topcoat

ORLY – Scandal and Storyteller (custom colour)

Glisten and Glow – Mother Terra and topcoat

Picture polish – instinct

So Nailicious – needle brush







23.11.18

review and cover mani: this splintered silence



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Lindley Hamilton has been the leader of the space station Lusca since every first-generation crew member on board, including her mother, the commander, were killed by a deadly virus.

Lindley always assumed she’d captain the Lusca one day, but she never thought that day would come so soon. And she never thought it would be like this—struggling to survive every day, learning how to keep the Lusca running, figuring out how to communicate with Earth, making sure they don’t run out of food.

When a member of the surviving second generation dies from symptoms that look just like the deadly virus, though, Lindley feels her world shrinking even smaller. The disease was supposed to be over; the second generation was supposed to be immune. But as more people die, Lindley must face the terrifying reality that either the virus has mutated or something worse is happening: one of their own is a killer.

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I love books set in space. The zero gravity, threats of instant death from a myriad of sources, and extreme isolation are always an excellent setting for a thriller. In THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE, all three were present and accounted for, with additional obstacles including a deadly virus and a bunch of teenagers who didn’t really know what they were doing. Oh, and there was also a possible killer on the loose.

*gets popcorn (metaphorically because of butter-staining on pages)* 


Jacket art and design by Jessie Gang


The cast in THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE felt like a return to young adult protagonists. Characters who, with a limited amount of life experience and loads of confidence, behaved like actual teenagers, a mix of critical thinking and impulsivity, passion and introspection. And with the majority of the space station grappling with the death of their parents and loved ones, grief played a pivotal role, underlying every decision and amplifying the stress of being stuck on a space station with no certainty of survival. A terrible combination in real life, but a fabulous one for fiction. *evil cackle*

Placing the narrative squarely on Lindley, from a first-person POV no less, set the stage for the story to unravel. Having just lost her mother—her only family—there wasn't time for Lindley to grieve after assuming her mother’s position in order to keep the station running. But that sort of sorrow can't be contained for long, and with an extreme lack of sleep, cracks began to splinter in Lindley’s stoic demeanour (see what I did there? 🤓). Moving from one emergency to the next, including second-tier emergencies (smooches! Strained friendships!) Lindley never had a moment to rest, and when the second-generation crew members (the teens/kiddos) started dying, she was stretched past her limit. So along with the uncertainty surrounding the new deaths, tension came from Lindley herself. The deep dive into her character gave the stakes another dimension, because I wanted her to be okay, both in a don’t-get-murdered way, and also emotionally.





Unfortunately, I got a bit lost in the cast of characters and would have liked more physical descriptions and mannerisms to set people apart, and I wasn’t completely sold on the romance. The first part of the book set up a lot of questions and most were answered by the end, with a sprint to the finish that had me burning through pages. The scientific elements seemed legit, although most of what I know about science I learned from The Big Bang Theory, so take that as you will. Overall, Olson really flexed her character-driven muscles in THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE, and the result was an entertaining read, perfect for YA sci-fi fans. 

Big thanks to HCC Frenzy for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

China Glaze – All Sun & Games and Can't Sandal This

Glisten and Glow – topcoat

So Nailicious – needle and spear brush



15.11.18

review and cover mani: empire of sand

 


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

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Turn down the volume on your speakers, friends, because I’m about to get S-C-R-E-A-M-Y. 

This book. THIS BOOK I CANNOT. 

Because Mehr! Oh Mehr. I loved her so much. SO VERY MUCH.

Let me break it down for you in legitimate sentences and not just a series of non-specific, enthusiastic exclamations.

Cover design by Lauren Panepinto

A strong character in quieter sense, meaning nonviolent, Mehr would give Marcella Morgan herself a run for her money. Jk they’d probably be best friends. But my point stands. Mehr’s toughness didn’t come from turning men to dust, or stabbing a sword into her enemy’s heart. Rather, it was her internal resolve. Not even Mehr’s privileged upbringing could stop her from being treated like an outsider. Kept separate from her sister and constantly told she was less-than, Mehr had to look within for acceptance. No matter what others said, no matter which whispered insult passed her by, Mehr stayed true to her beliefs. Her history. Her blood. Even when she was forced into impossible situations where it would have been easier to bend, there were moments she chose punishment over remaining silent—a next-level type of courage and yet, only a taste of Mehr’s strength. Astounding and admirable, to say the least.

I would like to briefly note that my esteem towards Mehr also extended to another character who isn’t mentioned in the description, so I won’t talk about them aside from saying I LOVE THAT CHARACTER SO MUCH MY HEART HURTS. I insist that you DM me when you read EMPIRE OF SAND so we can gush about this character who I can’t talk about, but also need to talk about, so let’s move on before I crack under the fangirl pressure.




Now that I’ve addressed the dynamic awesomeness of Mehr and Unnamed Character, it’s time for me to straight-up grab you by your beautiful cheeks and bring you close so I can whisper, “You have no idea how incredible Tasha Suri’s writing is,” in the least creepy way possible. And then follow-up by grabbing the lapels of your jacket (because it’s snowy here) and shake you a few times because FOR REAL THIS WRITING. An elegant delivery with a perfect amount of bite, EMPIRE OF SAND had the sort of voice that made the world fade away. Suri’s masterful ability to describe physical movement was among the strongest I’ve ever read, which I appreciated infinitely because dance played a key role in Mehr’s life, and it's often a challenge for me to imagine scenes of that nature. But not here. In this book, I could feel the movement in my limbs, and it was glorious.

So look, I know there are a lot of awesome fantasies out there, including a fair amount of debuts, and you may be thinking that you don’t have room for another. To this, I say “we both know that's not actually true because there's always room for more.” If you love fantasy, you NEED to read EMPIRE OF SAND. Like, it’s not optional. You’d be doing your brain and heart a disservice to not immerse yourself in this unbelievable tale of love, sacrifice, and determination. And I haven’t even mentioned the diversity and Indian setting, the intricate descriptions of lavish furnishings and clothing. Or the powerful way Suri incorporated feminism, spirituality, and faith. In short, I am completely obsessed with EMPIRE OF SAND and have full confidence that you will be too. Five stars plus a billion stars, for a total of one billion and five stars.

Big thanks to Orbit Books for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find, Big Apple Red, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, and Rollin’ In Cashmere

China Glaze – Chroma Cool, Wicked Liquid, and Slay Bells Ring

ORLY – Storyteller (custom shade)

So Nailicious – needle brush

Glisten and Glow - topcoat