29.11.16

book review with cover mani: the kept woman

Karin Slaughter, guys.

KARIN SLAUGHTER I CANNOT. 


Yes, this creepy baby is totally appropriate. 

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



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

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

Secrets bind them. And secrets can destroy them.
 


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

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

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

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

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

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

___


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


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

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


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


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For this mani, I used: 

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








21.11.16

book review with cover mani: the couple next door

Colder months always make me want to snuggle up with a good thriller. Maybe it’s the black covers that most thrillers boast nowadays, or maybe because suspense is best read in the dead of night, which now starts at approximately 5:30PM (*sobs*), but in any event, I've been reading a lot of thrillers lately. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR has been in my TBR pile for a while, but recently shot to the top, thanks to my desire to take bookstagram pic with a recently acquired light-up eh? sign (I really am a total book nerd). Haha!! 

*points*



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora, but one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents, but the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they've kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family, a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

___


I love sneaky characters who abide by the rules of Marauder’s Map, and much to my delight, Anne, Marco, and the entire cast of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR are up to no good. Some consider their secret(s) a harmless lie by omission, while others adhere to straight-up deception with malicious intent, but the one thing everyone has in common is their ability to bend the truth. There are no innocents here, except for the baby. (Yay! Haha!)


Every once in a while, I decide to paint a book's title and each time, I regret it. 
The font never comes out as I want it to, and the lack of letter symmetry makes
me crazyface. I must confess that I'm not happy with this mani, and debated on 
whether to not to post it, but I really loved this book and didn't have time to do
 it again, so it'll have to do. Whomp, whomp, and also grrrr. 

The reason I was so fascinated by the characters in THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR was Lapena's enviable ability to crack open her creations' brains and present the messy results in an accessible way. I was left with no doubt, regarding motivations, and that meant I wasn't put off by questionable actions because I understood why they occurred. And trust me, there were countless decisions that could've left a bad taste in my mouth, to the point where I'd put down the book, but instead of being repulsed, I was drawn further into the story. It takes impeccable execution to write unlikable characters that still elicit sympathy from me, and that's where Lapena's talent leapt off the page. None of these guys or gals were awesome, and yet, I was fascinated by them. Once I hit the last third, I finished in one sitting because there were so many loose ends with extremely high stakes, that I just had to know how it ended. Gah, I love when a book holds me hostage!



So if you're into psychological suspense with elements of thriller and crime, then you're going to want to pick up THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR. Twists, what-the-eff?! moments, and heart-squeezing tension abound! And sure, it may make you question the seemingly mundane lives of your neighbours, perhaps leading to an obsession in finding out what they're hiding, but isn't that why we read? To have our world changed, if only for a minute? To wonder what's lurking inside the dark closet of an outwardly "perfect" person's mind? In my opinion, that's a resounding yes, so if you're like me (meaning a harmless but inquisitive snooper) then THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR is definitely a book for you. 


---

For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Sun Worshiper
OPI - Need Sunglasses? and Matte Top Coat
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mache
Julep - Bea
Tools -What's Up Nails regular straight tape and a trimmed striping brush

And for more manis and bookish pictures, check out my IG account! (@jennieshaw)



4.11.16

book review (with cover mani!): city of the lost

CITY OF THE LOST is the start of another amazing series by Kelley Armstrong. I'm in deep with the Cainsville series (the next release isn't out until August of 2017 and omg that's basically forever from now *cries*) and I picked up CITY OF THE LOST, hoping for the same kind of un-put-downable read. Non-spoiler alert: it was everything I wanted and more!

*points while jumping up and down*




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author Kelley Armstrong delivers us to Rockton, a secret little town in the far north where the hunted go to hide. And where a hunter has now come to play.

Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police detective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Diana's abusive ex finds her again, despite all Casey has done to help her disappear. And Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…
___

Casey Duncan, people. CASEY DUNCAN. She's beyond awesome. I mean, who else would upend their life and move to the middle of frickin' nowhere (literally) in order to help their best friend? Nobody, that's who. But that's only one example in an endless string of the awesomeness that is Casey. She's incredibly smart and intuitive, loyal to a fault, and isn't afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right.

Actually, that's not totally true. Casey is afraid when she addresses an unjust situation, but she acts anyway, which is the definition of real courage. Also, have I mentioned that Casey drinks tequila? Straight, and without convulsing into a coughing fit? I'm reasonably certain that's the mark of a true badass, so add that to all of her other character quirks and Casey is pretty much the best. Not that she believes it, of course. Nope, not even for the briefest of moments. But that just makes me like her more. Gah! It's all so good!


As you can tell from the back jacket, the book began with Casey's startling confession. It was pure brilliance, and a key reminder of why I love Armstrong's writing. I'm always surprised. But not only with the "whodunnit" aspects (of which there are many red herrings and delightful twists).

When it comes to character development, Armstrong takes my natural assumptions and flips them to create powerful moments. And the best part? Even though I know Armstrong is a wondrous trickster, I never see the flips coming! In CITY OF THE LOST, the character arcs--reveals, secrets, and betrayals--elevated the story's tension to squirming-in-my-seat territory. There was even a part where I teared up. Yup, CITY OF THE LOST is a crime/thriller novel and I cried because it touched my heart. 

*hugs book*


Also in true Armstrong form, the remote northern location was described in eerie, atmospheric splendour, becoming a character in and of itself. The entire concept of Rockton was fascinating: a place for people to hide. And the eclectic collection of residents meant that nobody could be trusted. Talk about an amazing place to set a thriller, right? Combining the unique setting and a killer cast--haha!--with questionable motives and even more questionable pasts, means that I've found another series to obsess over (where I'll devour each new release and then anxiously wait 50 weeks for the next instalment, haha!). 

Soooo yeah. That's just about everything I can say about CITY OF THE LOST without revealing any spoilers. Just add this baby to your TBR pile. Now-ish. :)

__

For this mani, I used:

Nina Ultra Pro - Hint of Mint
ORLY - White Tips
OPI - A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Stay Off the Lawn, and Red My Fortune Cookie
Julep - Valerie 
Tools - triangular makeup sponge, trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9

And for more manis and book pics, check out my IG account! (@jennieshaw)





24.10.16

book review (with cover mani!): crooked kingdom

Instead of waiting until the end of my review, I've decided to start with my recommendation. In short: you must read the Six of Crows duology, for which CROOKED KINGDOM is the sequel. Leigh Bardugo is a frickin' evil genius (in the most complimentary way possible). She created unbelievably rich characters--the kinds of characters you cheer for even when they're not at their best--and then dropped them into a breath-holding plot, where everything that can go wrong, does. So do yourself a solid and pick up SIX OF CROWS. You'll get sucked in right away, and after you've taken a moment to recover from its ruthless roller coaster of emotion, you'll be ready for the tension-riffic sequel, CROOKED KINGDOM.

Okay. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on with the rest of my review! As with all the series I review, I won't include any sort of spoiler (or the synopsis because it also has spoilers) but I will gush about why CROOKED KINGDOM is the best sequel ever in existence. 

*points enthusiastically*


I gravitate towards plot-based novels, as my attention span needs action to stay engaged, and the Six of Crows series definitely hits the mark. Kaz's complicated plans always kept me guessing, and so many things went wrong that at times, I was too nervous to keep reading. In fact, I probably took three breaks (or more) during CROOKED KINGDOM, where I had to stop myself from Googling spoilers, because I was freaking out about a certain character's fate and needed to prepare myself. The idea I was even contemplating such an act should serve as a testament to the unrelenting tension. If I bit my nails, they'd be a jagged, mangled mess.


But along with a plot that made my heart flutter and ache, is a tremendous cast of characters. They came from different lands, different perspectives, and different backgrounds, but joined forces as a band of misfits who worked together in order to survive. 

There's Kaz, aka Dirtyhands, the scoundrel of the Barrel; Inej, aka The Wraith, who finds and keeps the darkest of secrets; Jesper, a gambling addict with a bullseye aim and matching pearl-handled pistols; Nina, a Grisha who uses her powers to keep casualties at a minimum (at first, anyway); Matthias, a former soldier trained to hunt Grisha, who finds love in the most unexpected place; and Wylan, a merchant's son with a hidden talent of his own. What a crazy group of young adults, eh? I don't think I'd be able to pick which character I liked most. All are flawed, vulnerable, strong, courageous and brave, and they all feel like family. Granted, the kind of family who you wouldn't put out the fine china for because you'd lose at least half the silver, but family nonetheless. 

And having such a diverse cast meant that each character had his or her own goal, which translated into conflicting actions--the constant weighing of which goal was the most important. Naturally, that depended on who was in charge and who was willing to go behind their back. Gah, I love these books so much!!



So in reference to the beginning of my review, why haven't you started reading this duology yet? I mean, what more could you ever want from a pair of books? Plus, the pages have coloured edges! Black for SIX OF CROWS and red for CROOKED KINGDOM. Too frickin' cool, right?! It's like the duology that keeps on giving! So buy them, people. Buy them and read them now! Then go back to the bookstore and pick up copies to give away. Do whatever you can to spread the awesomeness around. Because doesn't everybody deserve a little bit of awesomeness? :) 

___


For this mani, I used:

Julep - Spencer and Faye
Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism
OPI - Big Apple Red and Matte topcoat
Tools - triangular makeup sponge, trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9






18.10.16

book review (with cover mani!): the thousandth floor

You know when a cover is so frickin' pretty that you don't really care what the book's about because you just need the beauty on your bookshelf so you can stare at it forever and ever? Well when it comes to THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR, not only do you get a stunning cover, but you get a super cool story, too! That's a double win, folks!

*bangs awesome book gong*



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

NEW YORK CITY AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE.

A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

WELCOME TO MANHATTAN, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you're this high up, there's nowhere to go but down...

___

Welcome to the future, fellow readers! A world where technology takes care of most menial tasks with the simple push of a button. Like for reals, how much longer will it be until I can get a device that perfectly curls my hair, and then pins it back with an incandescent flower that changes colour? Or how about self-driving hover cars--the new, driverless Uber! When is that going to happen? And have you ever been unexpectedly caught in the rain? Well fear no more, people, because in future, rain is scheduled, and most of Manhattan lives in a single building, comprised of one thousand floors. Yup, it's an entirely different world. One of convenience, splendour, and luxury. But to quote the profound lyrical genius The Notorious B.I.G., "It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see." And wowee, guys and gals, are there ever problems. 


Drug problems. Unrequited love. Betrayal. Exile. Jealousy. Yup, THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR has them all! Each character has his or her own arc--a goal they want to achieve--and much to my delight, they're in conflict with each other, right from the start. And although most characters live on the upper floors, in a virtual bubble of decadence, there are others who maintain a more average existence. Their grounded view provides an opportunity for growth, as they hold up a mirror to the upper floor kids who are trapped in dramas of their own creation while blissfully oblivious to everyday struggles. Don't get it twisted though, because each character in THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR has hidden agendas and motivations, no matter what floor they live on.


I connected to each character pretty early on, and wound up rooting for just about everybody. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and when it comes to imaginative technological developments, the ideas are next-level. But hidden inside the tension that kept me turning pages was a subtle, yet powerful message. One character had both a female and male love interest, and aside from an inquisitive friend asking for the hot and steamy deets, there wasn't one opinion or judgement on the matter. Nobody so much as blinked at the switch and man, as much as I look forward to instant hair curling machines and chauffeur-less rides, I really hope it's not another hundred years before we can stop worrying about gender. Love is love, people. End of discussion. And this is the first book I've read (outside of high fantasy) where it wasn't an issue that needed dissection or explanation. So mega props to Katharine McGee for normalizing fluid sexuality. It's hard to convey a message without coming across as preachy, and she did a bang-up job. (Also, mega props to myself for only making that one pun, haha!)

So if you're looking for a new series that includes fantastical technological advancements alongside good old-fashioned, high-intensity teenage drama, then THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR is for you! With the crazy pants ending to this one, I know that I'll definitely be picking up the second. :)

__

For this mani, I used:

Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism
China Glaze - Gossip Over Gimlets and Wood You Wanna?
Julep - Spencer
OPI - Matte Topcoat
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 10, trimmed striping brush, small dotting tool 

And for more book and nail pics, check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)








12.10.16

book review (with cover mani!): home

When I first got wind that Harlan Coben had written another book in the Myron Bolitar series, and it would include the usual gang of Win, Esperanza, and Big Cyndi, but also Mickey, Ema, and Spoon, I did this for no less than four minutes:


via GIPHY

Because life isn't fair, my preorder got delayed by over a week (which made me all kinds of stabby) but in the end, it finally arrived. I tore open the package and stroked the front cover, losing my mind with excitement. But after I returned from the kitchen with a reading snack, my devious pooch Pickle had stolen my copy and whisked it away to his country house. THE NERVE. Haha! Anyway, I snatched it back and proceeded to burn through the whole thing in two sittings. 

Look at that diva face! Pickle's such a ham. 

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Ten years after the high-profile kidnapping of two young boys, only one returns home in Harlan Coben’s next gripping thriller, to be published in September 2016.

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend? Drawing on his singular talent, Harlan Coben delivers an explosive and deeply moving thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.

___


I don't want to age Coben unnecessarily, but I vividly remember buying his books in my teenage years. During that time, I worked multiple jobs and spent my money only on the essentials: Manic Panic, artisan bagels, prom and, of course, Myron Bolitar books. Did I get razzed by my friends? Of course not. They all loved books, too. But when they were reading about fantasy worlds and cute cowboys, I was following Myron et al on another case. And while I love each book in Coben's expansive repertoire (which I can say with certainty because I've read them all) I'm crazypants for the Myron Bolitar series. In fact, I'm nervous to even pick up my paperback copy of DROPSHOT because the spine is hanging on by a thread and each page looks like it's been dipped in tea. 

For reals, guys. I cannot stress how much I love these books. 



Through the years, I feel like I've run multiple gauntlets with this motley crew, and while HOME has more action than a Bruce Willis blockbuster, the biggest surprise is that Myron shares his POV with another character. I won't tell you who, but if you've read even one book from the Myron Bolitar series, you'll understand the utter fabulosity that is HOME. I want to squeal just thinking about it!! So many questions are answered, people. Not all, of course, because that's not much fun, but holy cannoli, are there links. And reveals. And so much awesome that I nearly fell off the couch and injured myself. 


In terms of a recommendation, maybe you could read HOME as a standalone, but I'm hesitant to encourage you. Without at least a little build-up, the bomb dropping won't mean much. 

(*internal sequel squeal*)

Then again, even without truly understanding the bomb dropping, the plot is twisty and unpredictable. Nothing is what it seems, and nobody close to the case of the missing boys can be trusted. In true Coben form, even with my Master of Deduction skills, I still couldn't figure it out. Haha! 

So the choice is yours, fellow readers! You can enjoy HOME as a surprising thriller standalone, or you can read all ten of the previous books and then finish with this one. Yay for a fall reading list? You're welcome. ;)

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For this mani, I used:

Julep - Myriam
OPI - Red My Fortune Cookie
ORLY - White Tips
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat
Tools - thin straight tape from What's Up Nails, piCture pOlish nail art brush no.10

And for more, non-book-related manis, check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)