17.1.19

review and cover mani: freefall



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A propulsive debut novel with the intensity of Luckiest Girl Alive and Before the Fall, about a young woman determined to survive and a mother determined to find her.

When your life is a lie, the truth can kill you

When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, Allison Carpenter miraculously survives. But the fight for her life is just beginning. For years, Allison has been living with a terrible secret, a shocking truth that powerful men will kill to keep buried. If they know she’s alive, they will come for her. She must make it home.

In the small community of Owl Creek, Maine, Maggie Carpenter learns that her only child is presumed dead. But authorities have not recovered her body—giving Maggie a shred of hope. She, too, harbors a shameful secret: she hasn’t communicated with her daughter in two years, since a family tragedy drove Allison away. Maggie doesn’t know anything about her daughter’s life now—not even that she was engaged to wealthy pharmaceutical CEO Ben Gardner, or why she was on a private plane.

As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers. Immersing herself in Allison’s life, she discovers a sleek socialite hiding dark secrets. What was Allison running from—and can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?

Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a riveting debut novel about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and those they love. 

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FREEFALL began in a risky way by dropping me into a plot already in progress. Sometimes, that abrupt start can leave me indifferent to the stakes, as my unfamiliarity with the characters means I don't care enough yet to worry about them. But a plane crash in the Colorado Rockies and Allison’s consequential journey of survival didn’t need much explanation in terms of worry. She was alone, unequipped, and unprepared for the arduous journey back to civilization, so kind of a no brainer in the stakes department. Jessica Barry didn’t stop there, though, and dumped an additional fear onto the playing field, as if surviving against the elements weren’t enough of a challenge. In the forefront of Allison's mind, the second she realized she'd survived the crash, her certainty she was being tracked meant she not only had to travel hundreds of miles, but needed to do it quickly in order to stay ahead of a looming threat nipping at her heels—a presence that would kill Allison just the same as a bear, wolf, or dehydration. *high fives Jessica Barry because yikes*


Cover design by James Iacobelli.
Cover photography © Sirachai Arunrugstichai/Getty Images.


So while it took a fair amount of flashbacks for Allison to share the reason behind her fears, I was riveted. At any moment, Allison could have died from any number of sources but oh my, that woman just kept on going. Admirable, for sure, but Allison wasn't a saint with clean hands, which actually made me admire her more. 

To balance Allison's super stressful chapters, her mother Maggie’s POV offered a grief-stained and slower-paced narrative. In the beginning, anyway (things got speedier as they went along). So much sadness had flooded Maggie’s life before Allison’s disappearance, which left her left fairly numb. Nothing like a child’s disappearance and possible death to either send you to bed for weeks or snap you out of your daze, right? Maggie’s desperation (and library savvy) had her doing things way outside her comfort zone, so really, both mother and daughter in FREEFALL were on their own high-stakes adventure where their very lives hung in the balance.

Yes. Both.




The way the story approached the truth behind what Allison had been doing during their two-year separation was executed flawlessly, in my opinion, because Barry threw down a heck-load of dots to connect, and the resulting bigger picture was impressively complicated. A few trope-ish characters created suspicion, no doubt, but even so, things got bananas by the end, and it didn’t matter if the chapter belonged to Allison or Maggie’s POV, I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. 2019 is already shaping up to be the Year of the Suspenseful Thriller, and FREEFALL has definitely secured its place among the best of the best. Five enthusiastic and survivalist stars!


Big thanks to HarperCollins Canada for an ARC!!




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For this mani, I used:

(Note: I had to mix this blue, so if you're in the market for a grey-purplish-blue, mix Man Hunt, Water-Falling In Love, after school boy blazer and a hint of white)

FingerPaints Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

Essie – after school boy blazer

China Glaze – Man Hunt, Water-Falling In Love, and Chroma Cool

OPI – matte topcoat

So Nailicious – needle brush



11.1.19

blog tour: slayer



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

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SLAYER had just about everything I loved about the Buffyverse, and that’s primarily the combination of asskicking and humour. It’s hard to mix both without destroying tension and Kiersten White was fully aware of the perfect time to throw in a quip or endearingly awkward scene (omg Nina's awkwardness spoke to my soul). The previous versions of Buffy worked so well because they weren't just about Buffy slaying vampires, but her desire to be a typical teenage girl while slaying vampires. In SLAYER, Nina had dedicated her life to working behind the Watcher scene, a healer in a world dedicated to killing, so the same principle applied when she became the Chosen One and consequently (much to my delight) I was invested right away. What is it about a reluctant protagonist that makes me want to cheer? *happy sigh*


Jacket designed by Sarah Creech
Jacket illustration by Talexi 
Slayer logo by Craig Howell


Giving Nina a combat-gifted twin sister, Artemis, added another dimension to Nina’s story, solidifying her role as healer-in-the-background. For anyone who’s grown up in their sibling’s shadow, you’re aware that once your role as “second best” is defined, it’s near impossible to get others to see you differently. So while Nina busied herself with researching and studying, Artemis was throwing knives in the training gym. Breaking out of expected roles was definitely a theme in SLAYER, which proved even more complicated for Nina because she didn’t just need the world to see her differently, but her sister as well—an impossible task and a source for buckets of tension.

Trapped between the girl she believed she was and the Slayer she had become, Nina’s personal life almost had more drama than her demon-killing life. Almost. Because wowee, friends. There was TONS of demon-killing drama. Some that even made me sad, which I didn’t expect. I also appreciated White’s inclusion of a more diverse cast. From demons to Slayers to Watchers, it’s no longer a single-serving cup of vanilla pudding. About time.



In terms of setting up readers who know little to nothing about the Buffyverse, White did a great job summarizing plot points of the past, and while it bordered on an info dump in the beginning, there was no other way to cover such a vast amount of background information. White’s ability to find a fresh thread in the ongoing Buffy saga, one that paid tribute to fandom history while setting the stage for an entirely new story, brought back so many memories and simultaneously got me excited for the future. So for new and seasoned Buffy fans alike, SLAYER will definitely satisfy all of your bloody and supernatural-coming-of-age cravings. 

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a finished copy, and for including me on the blog tour!




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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – Towel Me About It, Yoga-Ta Get This Blue, Viking in a Vinter Vonderland, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, Do You Lilac It?, In My Back Pocket, A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find, matte topcoat

China Glaze – Chroma Cool, Stop Beachfrontin’, Ingrid

ORLY – La Vida Loca

Julep – Mona

So Nailicious – needle brush



7.1.19

review and cover mani: the gilded wolves



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can't yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they'll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

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First review of 2019 woooot!! And holy smokes, I sure hope THE GILDED WOLVES sets the tone for the rest of the year because it was unreal! The holidays are so crazy, with relatives and friends and cooking and dishes, that when the festivities wrapped up, I was in the mood to be whisked far away from any sort of responsibility. THE GILDED WOLVES did that and more by dropping me onto the historic streets of Paris, where decadence dripped from each page and straight into my ornately bejewelled soul (which, by the way would be comprised of deep amethysts and white and black diamonds). 

Because this world-building, booknerds. In two words: Absolute perfection. Over-the-top in the most magnificent ways, I quickly became envious of Chokshi’s imagination as she transformed something as simple as a chandelier into a floating art piece that self-served champagne to an audience below. Like, hello fabulous, right?! Where can I get a chandelier like that? And the best part? The opulent vibes didn’t just accessorize the story, but also kept the plot on its toes. Since every object had the potential to become extraordinary (Forged), it meant that at any moment, the story could change. Odds on whether the development would be advantageous or disastrous for Séverin and his crew stood at about 50/50, so each time an enhancement came onto the scene, my brain would jump with glee because no two Forged items were ever the same, which meant I had no way to anticipate what cool thing would happen next. Incorporating that level of unpredictability in the world itself, both within an object’s potential and a character’s capabilities, made for one heck of a reading ride.


Cover design by Kerri Resnick


Speaking of Séverin and his band of misfits that couldn’t help but remind me of SIX OF CROWS, I loved how each character had a distinct personality and fatal flaw—one that foreshadowed how they'll confront their fears as the series moves along. Loyalties went deep between certain pairs, and one particular character had a remarkably unique backstory that I hope will be explored further some point because I’m so curious I can’t handle it. Beautifully crafted writing and tight pacing had me devouring chapter after chapter, and then I had to take a break to find a masquerade mask in order to feel closer to the story, which circles me back to the world-building because this world-building, for real. I wanted to crawl inside these pages and join Séverin’s gang with my very own headpiece constructed of luscious swan feathers and a dress that moved like a shimmering rainstorm, leaving crystal droplets in my wake. Obviously, I’d also want some sort of Forging ability, because they were on another creative level. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be part of a world where anything’s possible? *happy sigh*


***I do have one issue with THE GILDED WOLVES, but it involves light spoilers in terms of format, so PROCEED WITH CAUTION OR SKIP UNTIL BELOW THE NEXT PICTURE***

The first in a series, there’s certainly lots of places this story could go next, which is why the end irked me a bit. Compared to the rest of the book, the last several chapters read like a series of Wikipedia entries, information that could have been moved to the front of the second book as backstory. Because that’s what they felt like. Backstory after-the-fact, ie. prep for the second book. That left me conflicted on my overall impression of THE GILDED WOLVES, because there was, most definitely, an epic climactic crazypants battle, as the best fantasies tend to have, but then it just kind of kept going in what I think was supposed to be an emotive way, but it fell flat for me because I wasn't as invested. A bummer, really.




Overall, THE GILDED WOLVES was the first of what promises to be an incredible new series and I’m wholly invested in the adventure. Like National Treasure but with less Nicolas Cage and more magical goodness, make sure you grab a copy of this beauty! THE GILDED WOLVES hits shelves January 15th and there’s a sweet preorder campaign for US residents, so if you think this book is the one for you, make sure to preorder and submit your receipt!


Big thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism, Figure of Art, Paper Mâché

OPI – Rollin’ In Cashmere, Need Sunglasses, Stay Off the Lawn, and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Emerald Bae, Chroma Cool, and Boujee Board

Picture polish - fresh

So Nailicious – needle brush