15.6.18

blog tour: tell me lies



Last Saturday, I spent all day glued to the pages of TELL ME LIES. Holy addictive novel, friends! The unhealthy dynamic between Lucy and Stephen had me all: "Oh girrrrrrl nooooooo." But in an empathetic way, because I've been there, battling romantic feelings towards a charming person who basically treats you like shit. While Lucy and Stephen shared the narration in alternating POV chapters, this story was more about Lucy. Mostly because she was the only one capable of growth, although it pains me to say that Stephen’s voice brought this book to the next level (because yikes, what a nightmare character).




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A thrilling, sexy coming-of-age story exploring toxic love, ruthless ambition, and shocking betrayal, Tell Me Lies is about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, Tell Me Lies follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. Deep down, Lucy knows she has to acknowledge the truth about Stephen. But before she can free herself from this addicting entanglement, she must confront and heal her relationship with her mother—or risk losing herself in a delusion about what it truly means to love.

With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go, even when you know you should. 
   

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I had concerns about reading TELL ME LIES when the back jacket used “toxic love” to describe Lucy and Stephen’s relationship, because I thought it was a veiled way of saying “abusive.” I suppose an argument could be made to that effect, in so far as emotional manipulation, but I saw the implosion of two people who gravitated towards each other, even when it wasn't good for them. Mostly on Lucy's part, of course, because of the two, she was far more emotionally involved, which invariably meant she got hurt. Reading her POV was more of a challenge than Stephen's, because I could feel her pain and frustration—her yearning to be loved, no matter what the cost. But Stephen’s charismatic words were a siren song, each carefully constructed compliment luring Lucy deeper and deeper into dangerous waters. Choosing to believe promises over actions never ends well, and again, I’ve been there. In fact, TELL ME LIES brought up memories about my own version of Stephen, which made me tackle-hug myself* because thank goodness I figured out I deserved better. 

*If you try this, make sure you're in front of a couch or other more forgiving surface because you'll propel yourself backwards and landing on your tailbone isn't a good time. *gets bag of ice*

Jacket design by Donna Cheng

That said, Lovering NAILED Stephen's perspective, the sort of man who figures out how to manipulate another person's behaviour to his benefit, and to their detriment. Like, Lovering straight up set Stephen's POV on fire and I couldn’t stop staring at the flames. At times, I found myself chuckling at Stephen's douchebaggery, as it reminded me SO MUCH of my former off-and-on Stephen-esque relationship. I could actually picture him mirroring Stephen's exact same ego-centric rationale for his behaviour—justifying a hot and cold routine because he wants what he wants when he wants it. I also appreciated that Lovering didn't choose a smokeshow antagonist. Instead, Stephen's physical looks were on the average side, which I thought reinforced his dangerous nature--a seemingly innocuous exterior while inside, he was pure predator. 

{I had another paragraph here, where I said some specific things about Lucy’s path, but have since realized it’s spoiler-y. I could’ve just deleted this entirely, but wanted you to know that I could talk about this incredible book for much longer than this review appears in its final version. Because yes, it’s that good.}




When a novel consumes me to the point that I forget it’s fiction, going so far as to have me reliving my own memories, I’m left in awe. That is absolutely the case with TELL ME LIES. I’m in actual awe of what Lovering accomplished. Characterization done to perfection, TELL ME LIES earns a standing-ovation-style five stars from me, and is a must-read for anyone who’s been sucked into the orbit of a human death star.

Big thanks to Atria Books for a finished copy, and for including me on the blog tour!



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For this mani, I used:

OPI – Kiss Me On My Tulips and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Kiki In Our Tiki

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

White acrylic paint

So Nailicious – needle brush

Triangular makeup sponge






6.6.18

review and cover mani: every single secret

I am a major Emily Carpenter fan. With each release, her prose and southern gothic atmosphere manages to get stronger. In EVERY SINGLE SECRET, I’m psyched to report that she’s reached even higher highs. Creepy and a mind-bender in the best way, the tension forced me to stay up three hours later than my usual bedtime, because I’d tried to fall asleep and wound up tossing-and-turning. Yes, you read that right, my raging curiosity actually forced me to get back up and keep reading into the wee hours of the morning. I can say, with confidence, that's never happened before. The following, sluggish day was worth it, so get ready to add a doozy to your TBR, friends!




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

“A true psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.” —Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night
Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancé, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.
The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.
One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.
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I felt an immediate kinship with Daphne Amos. She didn’t like talking about her childhood, choosing to keep the past in the past in order to move forward. Meeting a man with similar sensibilities, Heath, who happened to also be a level 10 smokeshow, felt like a match in heaven, until said smokeshow started having intense nightmares. Naturally, the best solution was to seek help from a renowned doctor, in a secluded location where the staff seemed a bit off and the only activities were hiking or talking about feelings. So in essence, Daphne’s nightmare (and also my own, tbh).


Cover design by Rex Bonomelli


In typical form, Carpenter got the ball moving quickly. Within a couple of chapters, Daphne and Heath were at the retreat and yellow warning lights began flashing the moment they arrived. Locked rooms, forbidden areas, being monitored 24/7, and an eerie forest made for an unsettling vibe. That sensation intensified when Daphne met Dr. Cerny. There wasn’t a safe place or person in the entire place, and it filled me with unrelenting paranoia. For real, I whispered* WTF to myself for the better part of the second half, while having to remind my fingers to relax because their clenched grip kept bending the pages. 

*if The Remix hadn’t been sleeping beside me, these would’ve been screams.




Friends, I cannot stress how bananas this plot became--a banana pantsuit of awesome, if you will. It’s completely mental, with questions piling on top of other questions, and a healthy dollop of wait, WHAT?! I guarantee you'll never be able to predict this plot's utterly twisted path, and recommend carving out solitary reading time during daylight for EVERY SINGLE SECRET, or you’ll be burning the midnight oil and/or blatantly ignoring your family. Like a can of Pringles, once you pop this novel, you can’t stop. 


Big thanks to Emily Carpenter for sending me a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:
FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché
OPI – Strawberry Margarita, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, and matte topcoat
China Glaze – Wait N’ Sea, Queen B, Just a Little Embellishment, and I’ll Sand By You
So Nailicious – needle and slayer brushes

31.5.18

review and cover mani: the death of mrs. westaway

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY plucked me from the warm spring weather and dropped me into sub-zero England, where snow and ice chilled me to the bone. Poor Hal was attacked from all angles, including the climate itself, and that sense of loneliness—Hal being on her own with nobody to rely on—cranked up the tension from the get-go. So basically, THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY was everything I want in a suspense novel. 


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

 From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

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With a tiny cast of characters, suspicion bounced around, gradually building to a feverish pace. Ruth Ware smoked the shady personalities that made up the Westaway family, whose goals were mostly self-serving, and I never trusted a single one. From the cantankerous caretaker, incapable of a kind word, to the set of brothers who argued like it was an Olympic sport, Hal was forced to navigate her way through decades of family drama. 


Cover design by Alan Dingman.


The isolation of the foreboding estate acted like an insta-pot, turning up the heat on Hal’s deception. Naturally, I mean that metaphorically because Hal was frozen for the better part of every chapter. While trying to figure out if she was actually related to the Westaways, Hal made excellent use of her experience reading tarot cards, which added to the already atmospheric tone. Including otherworldly vibes—ones that Hal herself admitted weren’t terribly reliable—produced airs of magical realism and a more sinister layer to the mystery. After that admission, Hal's continued drawing of cards for herself reinforced her sense of solitude. In desperate need of a confidant, she'd return to the Major and Minor Arcana for comfort and reassurance, because they were all she had. It made my heart hurt, at times. 




But this wasn’t even almost a sad novel. It’s creepy and suspenseful in the best ways and I flew through it. Each character had something to hide and motivation to deceive the others, so the tension never stopped. If you’re a fan of small casts in an isolated location, trying to outwit and outlast a la Survivor, only in a colder climate and with no referee, THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is the novel for you! 

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

China Glaze – Street Style Princess

Glisten and Glow – topcoat

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes


24.5.18

review and cover mani: all the ever afters

Short review: ALL THE EVER AFTERS is the best fairy tale retelling I’ve ever read. The end. 

What? You need more than that? Fine. It’s the best fairy tale retelling and villain origin story I’ve ever read, so get your debit cards ready friends, because you'll be sprinting to the bookstore in about three minutes.



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In the vein of WickedThe Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”

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Agnes’s story began when she was ten years old. Forced to leave her family and work for the manor, she landed the job of laundress apprentice—arguably the most grueling of positions. With few allies, Agnes did what she had to do in order to survive, enduring abuse, heartache, and the ever-present uncertainty that she could be tossed out into the cold for the slightest of mistakes. 


 
Designed by Leah Carlson-Stanisic

The lyrical writing in ALL THE EVER AFTERS created a fully immersive reading experience. A rich world saturated with sensory details, Agnes had my heart in the palm of her hand. The world isn’t kind to smart and ambitious girls, and even less kind to smart and ambitious women—a lesson Agnes learned again and again. Her ultimate goal was heartbreakingly simple, to be safe. I both admired and ached for Agnes, whose best-laid plans often ended up in a heap of unfulfilled expectations, tucked between the mounds of laundry she’d have to wash until her hands blistered. 

But Agnes never gave up. No matter the terrible betrayals—no matter how unfair life became—Agnes pressed forward, always searching for her place in the world. When everyone around you says you're nothing, it’s easy to believe them and yet Agnes never lost sight of who she was and what she could achieve if given even the smallest opportunity. If Agnes had donned the Sorting Hat, she’d have been Slytherin with a side of Ravenclaw and a pinch of Gryffindor to boot.


As for the retelling itself, Teller created a completely fresh take, while incorporating themes about society’s obsession with physical beauty. By challenging the perspective on the components we’re able to recite by heart—ugly step sisters, the glass slipper, Cinderella herself—Agnes showed how small truths can evolve into myth. I honestly can’t believe how exquisitely Teller accomplished this tour de force because when I finished, I was all Cinderella who? They say that everyone is the hero in their own life but in this case, Agnes was a shining star and far more interesting than the traditional heroine who was forced to sleep by a hearth in the kitchen (or was she?). Five stars, plus one million stars, for a total of one million and five stars. *preps megaphone to inform neighbors of the awesomeness*




Big thanks to HarperCollins Canada and William Morrow for an ARC!

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For this mani, I used:

OPI – CIA= Color is Awesome, You Don’t Know Jacques, Gargantuan Green Grape, You Are So Outta Lime, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Need Sunglasses, Big Apple Red, and matte topcoat

China Glaze – I’ll Sand By You, Throne-In’ Shade, Kill ‘Em With Kindess, Water-Falling In Love, Dashboard Dreamer, and Dv8

Julep – Fiore and Nadine

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché

So Nailicious brushes – needle, warrior, and slayer





15.5.18

review and cover mani: the favorite sister

THE FAVORITE SISTER felt like an origin story for reality television darlings, by showing how easy it can be to detach from reality and create another. Under the guise of friendship, these characters were originally led to believe they would empower others, but wound up competing for fame by humble bragging about their accomplishments and stirring the pot in order to stay relevant. Frankly, this is the kind of set up for most reality shows of this nature, but THE FAVORITE SISTER took that basic premise and blew it the fuck up, so I can't wait to scream about it. 


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

 From Jessica Knoll—author of Luckiest Girl Alive, the instant New York Times bestseller and the bestselling debut novel of 2015—comes a blisteringly paced thriller starring two sisters who join the cast of a reality TV series. One won’t make it out alive. So…who did it?

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

The Favorite Sister explores the invisible barriers that prevent women from rising up the ranks in today’s America—and offers a scathing take on the oft-lionized bonds of sisterhood, and the relentless pressure to stay young, relevant, and salable.
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Early on, it was clear that Brett and Kelly were ambitious sisters who approached life from different angles. That sort of organic conflict immediately drew me in. My bookstagram caption even included something along the lines of “I can’t wait to see how these terrible characters get up to no good.” Now that I’ve finished, I suspect this was a clever trap because in the end, I sat back and thought: Huh. I was not aware of my Walking Contradiction status. 

Oooo yes. Knoll held up a glaring mirror to the current state of feminism, and I found myself pulling quotes so often, I sifted to taking pictures to save time (because I am a non-writing-in-the-book sort of gal). Picking this setting to speak about what it means to be a successful, independent, and wealthy woman was absolute perfection. Because who better to know about the amount of work it takes to rise to the top of one's profession than someone who's done it themselves? Respect for an equal should come naturally and in an ideal world, it would remain that way. But in life, and after the first season of Goal Diggers, when ratings became more important than a positive message, Brett, Kelly, and Stephanie had to deliver the drama by turning on each other, or be kicked to the curb, Manolos in hand. Women, in particular, can rationalize poor behaviour and watching the spin through several different points of view drove home the point that regardless of the lip service about sisterhood, deep down, women are threatened by one another; the result of the society we live in. We strive for collaboration, but wind up competing. Sharpened stiletto nails at the ready to strike.


Cover Design by Christopher Lin.
Cover Art by Annabelle Breakey/Getty Images.


The unapologetic theme about how much easier it is for women to tear each other down instead of offering a hand up, really got me thinking. The streak of maliciousness comes from the fear that if another woman succeeds, we will fail. There's only room for one. But we also learn that being too ambitious or too opinionated or any number of other toos can hurt our images, so we find other ways: backstabbing, fabricating rumours, passing along harmful gossip with glee—jabs that happen behind the scenes while we feign innocence and girl power. THE FAVORITE SISTER lifted that curtain and bared the ugliness in all of its check-yourself glory. Because what the hell is wrong with me that makes me love these sorts of shows? What does it mean if, in my real life I try to empower, but seek out petty cattiness when it comes to entertainment? Even as I pulled quotes about this contradiction, patting my feminist back and nodding to myself, I still loved the conflict. *clutches BAD FEMINIST and rereads chapters about loving the things we "shouldn't" while contemplating life choices*




So look, this book is phenomenal. It's like a blooming onion that satisfied my gossipy and philosophical cravings, each layer more delicious than the last. Nobody’s an innocent bystander in THE FAVORITE SISTER, and while the novel began with Brett already dead, getting to the how and why was the real story, and a fascinating one at that. Jessica Knoll's sharp and smart writing (plus the most perfect pop culture references, including a Canadian one that made me laugh out loud) confirms her seat at the powerhouse table and I can't wait to see what she writes next. 


Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism, Paper Mache, and 15 Minutes of Frame

ORLY – La Vida Loca

China Glaze – Street Style Princess, Chroma Cool, and BFF

Julep – Courtney

OPI – matte topcoat


So Nailicious brushes – warrior, needle, and slayer