31.12.15

top ten reads of 2015!

It's that count-down time of year again! Woot woot! I was worried that I wouldn't have time to put this post together before the new year, but here I am! I did it!

Yes, I feel like a blogging boss. Ha!

tkyle:me, literally

 In total, I managed to read 81 books this year, and I made a conscious decision to mix it up, genre-wise, which was probably one of the better decisions I've made. I swear that my writing has matured so much, by branching out by reading such a variety of authors. 2015 was also the year I shifted the focus of my blog and started painting tribute manis inspired by some of my favourite books. It's been super fun to do, so I'm going to keep that going for 2016. Because yay for amazing books and matching nails!

Although the majority of the books I read were awesome (only two were under three stars), there were some that absolutely stood out. As you can probably guess, those ones are going to be in this post. I've put together mini reviews for each, with links to the original, more in-depth reviews, (because otherwise, this post would've been hella long). You're welcome. Haha!

So without further ado, bring on the books!!

*bangs book gong, which is somewhat muffled because of all the pages and stuff*


10. THE WICKED WILL RISE


I love the world that Danielle Page has created for her reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz, and the second instalment in the Dorothy Must Die series didn't disappoint. It's dark and twisted and there's so much magic! Controversy aside, this is a fresh take on an already-cool concept. The MC, Amy, is a fabulous YA heroine and because the story is so unique, I have no idea what's going to happen next. I'm definitely excited to see how this series progresses! 


9. THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY


Bethany Chase's lovely debut is one that I've recommended to anyone who loves women's fiction. There are highs, lows, and a ton of comedy that's just perfect for the 30-somethings (meaning, me. Haha!). I loved Sarina, the main character. She definitely reminded me of a few people in my real life, which made it all the more interesting to read. In a good way. Haha! There's definitely more to this book than a few laughs, though, because this book tackles some tough topics. A seriously great read that takes you through the whole spectrum of emotions. Bethany's second release is slated for 2016 and I'm very much looking forward to checking it out. 


8. LIBRARY OF SOULS


This year marked the end of a couple of series I've been digging. LIBRARY OF SOULS is the final book for Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children and I have to say, I'm sorry that it's over. This series was fun, dark, and downright enthralling. Maybe it's because I have a soft spot for outcasts, or maybe it's because I love an ensemble cast that captures my heart. Either way, The Miss Peregrine's series has been wildly entertaining. Plus, there are so many cool, creep-tastic pictures included! If you're into unusual characters put into extraordinary circumstances, this is the series for you! 


7. WHY NOT ME?


Mindy Kaling's second collection of essays were even more awesome than her first. Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe. But it's true. This collection has more heart than the first, but just as much humour. Man, can Mindy write comedy. I laughed out loud more times than I even know, while reading WHY NOT ME? Also, I kind of got choked up by the end. So really, it's the best of both worlds. There's a reason why this book has been cruising the NYT Bestseller List for awhile. After reading the first chapter, I'm sure you'll see why. 


6. THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER 


It's hard to describe THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER, mostly because there's just so much tucked inside this wonderful yellow book. It almost reads like poetry, with its own rythym and beat, but if you can get into it, you won't want to leave. But don't get it twisted, there's a lot of in-your-face, murder-mystery action, nestled within the beauty, and the antagonist is a seriously bad dude who's scary as hell. Yes, this book's got it all, folks, so don't wait--buy it now!


5. THE VINTAGE GUIDE TO LOVE AND ROMANCE


Fact: I love Kirsty Greenwood's writing. A lot. She manages to create the most interesting, delightfully absurd, likeable-even-when-they're-not-likeable characters of all time, and she runs them through a gauntlet of self-awareness. Her debut, YOURS TRULY, was on my  best-of list in 2012, so when I saw she had published another stand-alone, I scooped it up and read it immediately. FYI: you should do the same. Because although her characters are on a quest for their better selves, their heartfelt journeys are peppered with some of the funniest, wittiest writing around. You'll laugh for sure, and you may also cry, but at the end, you'll be very happy to have discovered who I consider to be a leading author for humorous women's fiction. (Also, she's super funny in real life, so you should totally follow her Twitter.)


4. THE ART OF FALLING


Honestly, I'm still kind of recovering from this one. It was a deep and enthralling tale of a woman's fresh start after a terrible accident. The prose was bananas, along with the details regarding the competitive world of professional dance. Even the supporting cast of characters were remarkable. Definitely a book you want to read in private, so nothing distracts you from the page. And because Kathryn really goes there, I'd also recommend having tissues nearby. Like, the better part of a box.


3. FURIOUSLY HAPPY


This is Jenny Lawson's second book.
Do you need another reason to pick it up? Probably not. Haha!

But if you're unfamiliar with Jenny Lawson, let me tell you: her brain operates on an entirely different level than most people's. Probably because she's highly medicated. But that's why she's so great. She's shaped a pretty crappy situation into a pretzel of awesome. She's given a voice to those who live in the dark--to people who truly believe they are alone in their struggles. Having attended one of her book signings (which you can read about by clicking the link below this picture), I can attest to the way she's united her readers. Plus, did I mention she's funny? Because she is insanely funny. If you need a laugh, this is your book.


2. WINTER


Oh, WINTER. Where should I begin with you? Well, aside from having my favourite cover of the year (omg that apple, right?!), this book was also one of the more satisfying finales I've ever read. There was so much going on in The Lunar Chronicles yet somehow, Marissa Meyer was able to wrap up just about every storyline up without seeming wrap-uppy (this is a technical book blogging term (not really)). I loved each and every character, even when they were behaving badly. I mean, the concept of basing characters on fairy tales and putting them in a futuristic, space-travelling environment was pure brilliance. I've seen that Marissa's next release will be a prequel of Alice in Wonderland and I'm so freaking excited I can hardly function. Can you say, preorder? Haha! Anyway, WINTER is absolutely my YA pick of the year. If you haven't read The Lunar Chronicles yet, what the heck are you waiting for?


1. THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING

I love this series so much that I can't even. The first book, QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, was my #3 pick for 2014, but this year, the sequel claimed the 2015 top spot. It's just incredible: the MC Kelsey, the awfulness of her kingdom's situation, magic, lust, and to add even more to the already bursting plot, there was a surprise twist that had my jaw dragging on the floor...all the way back to my computer where I preordered the third. Because OMG AMAZING. I've been reading a lot of YA these past few years, and I think it's because the plot takes off and doesn't let up. The Tearling series is just like that, only for adults. It doesn't really matter if you're into historical fiction, or fantasy, or whatever genre you see it shelved in. This story transcends genre--an epic tale for all, if you will. The final book comes out in June, so you've got plenty of time to read the first and second, before ravenously devouring the third.


So there you have it: my top ten reads of 2015! What were some of your favourites? Did they make my list?

Have an amazing NYE, everyone! 











28.12.15

book review (with tribute mani!): the art of falling

I can't believe I'm writing this, but this will be my last nails and tales post for 2015!! Well, aside from a best-of round up, of course. Haha! I thought long and hard about which book I'd end the year on, and the moment I finished this particular book, I knew that (a) the choice was obvious and (b) the tribute mani was going to be hella hard. But hey, sometimes it's good to take on a challenge. ;)

When it comes to choosing books, I’m not usually drawn to emotionally dense stories. It’s not that I have a heart of stone, it’s just that I don’t particularly like reading about feelings. I prefer to read for entertainment, not to grow as a person. Does that make me shallow? Err…don’t answer that. Haha!

But every so often, I throw caution to the wind and pick up a book that gives me all the feels. You know, just to prove to myself that I can be a serious reader (my Grade 12 English teacher would be so proud—shout-out to Mrs. Meikle!).

I’ve been a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association for a couple of years now (if you write WF, check us out!) and one member, Kathryn Craft, has been incredibly generous with sharing her process. I’d heard fabulous things about her debut novel, THE ART OF FALLING, so, armed with a box of tissues and snuggled up on the couch with a cup of tea, I dove in. And, just like I’d feared expected, it was Feelings R Us. 

(Side note: This is legitimately the most challenging tribute mani I've ever done. Hands and fingers are hard to draw guys. Either they were stubby or claw-like, neither of which was good because the fingers were supposed to be long and elegant. Ah well, eh? At least I tried.) 


There’s no way I can articulate just how wonderful this book is, because, frankly, I’d do a disservice to Kathryn’s prose. But rest assured, folks, Kathryn can write. Yes, in italics. Because wow. By the second chapter, I’d highlighted seven sentences. SEVEN! All beautiful and rich metaphors, haunting descriptions that I couldn’t have put together in a million, trillion years, and careful phrasing that set a deep emotional tone. Kathryn is an author who cuts to the core of her characters, showing their humanity and deepest flaws, but in a way that didn’t make me shy away. It was, for lack of a better word, riveting; one of those books where my brain kept going...

when someone says “free pizza!”

So look, THE ART OF FALLING certainly isn’t an easy read. I didn’t fly through it, racing from plot point to plot point. It felt more like watching a flower bloom, cautious and beautiful. I didn’t want to rush the experience—this isn’t a book to be rushed. That said, I still read it in two days because I couldn’t not keep going.

I mean, there’s Penny, who’s recovering from a mysterious accident while grappling with the idea that she may never dance again, her unexpected roommate Angela, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, two strained mother-daughter relationships, eating disorders, lost dreams, and a lonely baker named Marty.

So you see what I’m saying: Not exactly a fun read.


But not all reading is meant to be fun and lighthearted. Some books go beyond entertainment, making you look at the world in a slightly different way. They lift your soul after breaking your heart. I’m not even joking when I say that I hugged my iPad when I finished.

In sum, THE ART OF FALLING is most definitely a rare gem, one that you should probably pick up, even if you’re scared of all the feels. Trust me, if I can handle it, you can too. You can thank me later (after you’ve recovered).



14.12.15

book review (with tribute mani!): why not me?


When I heard that Mindy Kaling had a second set of essays coming out, I thought: Well, crap. I mean, she's funny--hilarious, even--but I'd been on two book buying binges in as many months, and being that it's coming into spend all my money on presents for other people the holiday season, I sadly added my name to the 49-person queue at the library. But then, a couple of weeks later, Chapters had a sale on WHY NOT ME? and I suddenly found myself walking into the bookstore to get a copy (along with a few others because it's basically sacrilegious to walk into a bookstore and only buy ONE book. Also, sorry to those whose gifts may come from dollarama, haha!).


Oh-em-to-all-the-gees, guys, I'm so happy I didn't have to wait for the library copy, because this book was hilarious. I legitimately laughed out loud more times than I could count. Mindy has killer comedic timing as an actress and her writing is no different. Now, being that I'm a borderline super fan of Mindy's work on The Office and The Mindy Project, where there were too many incredible one-liners to possibly keep track of (actually, now that I've written that, I bet there's someone who's complied a list somewhere...okay, I've just returned from Google and there are MANY sites that list Mindy's zingers, so strike that earlier thought), I could hear Mindy's voice in my head, as I read. It definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the essays, but I don't necessarily think it's the kind of book where you'd NEED to be familiar with the author's previous (or current) work, in order to be in on the jokes. That's how solid the writing is.

This book just screamed for a tribute mani, and I quite happily obliged. The cover is a soft, baby blue and the copper accent of Mindy's name gave it some flare. You may be wondering what the deal is with my feature fingers. The next picture will answer all of your questions (oooo, the suspense! haha!).

The table of contents had me laughing before I even began, with chapter titles like: (Minor) Fame Has Changed Me, How To Get Your Own TV Show (and Nearly Die of Anxiety), and I Love Sex Scenes!. But as I continued, it became clear that, nestled in between quippy tales and opinions, Mindy's heart was on full display. Okay, so maybe not full display, but it was definitely there. And, frankly, that just made me love her more. Her last chapter literally brought me to happy tears, not because I was laughing, but because it was so heartfelt and honest. I've often heard that true comedy MUST be honest, or it doesn't work. This book proves that for Mindy Kaling. Being hilarious is awesome, but being hilarious and honest and insightful is pretty much the trifecta of awesomeness. So bravo, Ms. Kaling.

The inside jacket had this repeating pattern, which I thought was too cute for life. They're pictures of Mindy's favourite things and if I were to ever publish a collection of essays, I sooooo want samesies in mine. There'd be a cheeseburger for sure (because obviously), a bottle of nail polish, yoga pants, and Bella, the sparkly squirrel figurine that sits next to my computer.

I will warn you that WHY NOT ME? may not be the best book to read in public. Personally, I like to laugh without abandon and slap whatever's beside me, whether it be my hub's knee or a pillow. A stranger's knee, though, leads to uncomfortable and possibly unsanitary consequences. If you're like me, take heed with my warning. Haha!


So if you're in the mood for a light, funny read, with just enough heart to at least double your current love for Mindy Kaling, then you need to pick this one up, sale or no sale. I also think it'd make a perfect gift, even for people who don't read much, because the chapters are independent of each other,  meaning you can read it over several sittings (or, you know, all at once during a Saturday morning when you can stay in your pjs and eat handfuls of dry Froot Loops without judgement. I won't tell you how to live your life). Either way, it's a win-win. Mostly because if they really aren't into reading, they may offer to give it back to you and then SCORE! FREE BOOK FOR YOU!

You're welcome. ;)


9.12.15

tundra toboggan nails

Wow. It's been a looooong time since I've done a nail post that doesn't have anything to do with books. I guess I really needed a break after hosting the nail files, eh? Haha!

Well, the reason I felt inspired to write a straight-up nail post (besides my love for theme manis) is because there's a competition afoot, on Nail Polish Canada. Bloggers have until December 18th to share holiday nail art, for the chance to win some really awesome polish sets! WOOT FOR NAIL POLISH SETS!

Click here for the prize list!

Here's my entry, which I've titled: tundra toboggan (because who doesn't love alliteration?)



Ready for the longest how-to ever? Just to be on the safe side, you should probably take a bathroom break. Haha!

Gradient: First, I applied one coat of White Tips. When that was dry, I used a triangular makeup sponge and applied three coats of gradient, with White Tips, Blu, and Instinct. After that dried, I used a flat nail art brush to apply the falling "snowflakes," with The Outer Edge and Make A Spectacle. A thin coat of quick-dry top coat sealed the base, and I let it dry completely before moving on.

Penguins: Using a thin nail art brush and Fiore, I drew both toboggans (that aren't entirely proportionate, haha!). Then, I used a large dotting tool and Black Stripe Rite to make the bodies, heads, and arms, along with White Tips and a smaller dotting tool for each penguin's belly and eyes. With another small dot of Black Stripe Rite for the pupils, the eyes were done. The same small dotting tool I used for the pupils, I also used for the beak and feet, with Mayhem Mentality, and the santa hats are two coats of Peppermint To Be, which I applied with a thin nail art brush. Finally, a small dot of White Tips completed the hats. I applied another coat of quick-dry top coat and let it fully dry, because I was super paranoid that they'd smudge while I drew the trees (anxious nail polish enthusiast, much? ;) ).

Trees: With another thin nail art brush, I layered Shake Your $$ Maker, Payton, Francis, Running in Circles, and I Soiree I Didn't Do It, until I thought they looked like actual trees. Haha! I added one more coat of quick-dry top coat and then finished off the mani with the "mountain," where I applied a thick coat of There's Snow One Like You, on the bottom of each nail.

Whew! Told you it was long. Haha! And if you're thinking that you'd like to create your own tundra toboggan mani, the majority of polishes I used can be found on the Nail Polish Canada website. :)


So there you have it: a tundra toboggan adventure! Oh man, I really love using penguins for winter nail art. And I think the santa hats are freaking adorable. Especially the one that flew off the third penguin, because he was going too fast, furiously trying to catch up to his buddies. What a story of triumph for the little penguin that could! (maybe) Haha!

If you like my holiday nail art, I'd love your vote! Here's the link! And if you'd like to enter, upload your own mani, below. Remember that you've got until December 18th! Good luck (and thank you if you decide to vote for me!!)!




2.12.15

book review (with tribute mani!): winter

Years ago, I was a member of a short-lived, online Book Club, and the very first book we read was CINDER. I'd never read much YA before then (as an adult), nor had I read much science fiction, but that's what's so great about book clubs—they introduce you to new books! And man, did we all fall in love with it. Both for the incredibly unique plot, and the jam-packed action. Plus, there were the gorgeous covers. They’re breathtaking, while still being slightly ominous. Incredible branding, that’s for sure. If I had more time, I would’ve done a tribute mani for each one! Haha!


(The only cover missing here is for FAIREST, a little novella that goes between CRESS and WINTER.) 



So, four-ish years after I first read CINDER, the final book in the series, WINTER, was finally released, on November 10. And just like the previous three-and-a-half books, the finale didn’t disappoint.

It’s always a challenge to write a review for the last book in a series because spoilers are pretty much a given, and that totally stinks. So in the interests of being cautious, I’ll try to tread lightly by not going into detail regarding the story's progression.


In no particular order here’s a list of what WINTER had, which can also be found in the other Lunar Chronicles books:

-       Unrequited love!
-       Heartbreak!
-       Action!
-       Badass female characters based on beloved fairy tales!
-       Betrayal!
-       Mind-control powers!
-       Futuristic cyborgs in space!
-       Effed-up governmental policies!
-       Mega effed-up villains!
-       Life-threatening diseases!
-       Mysterious antidotes!
-       Glamorously-ridiculous clothing!
-       Murder!
-       Mayhem!
-       Everything else you could possibly want in a high-stakes tale of a social outcast/underdog who’s bound and determined to save the world!

So if that combination of exclamatory points tickles your fancy, I highly recommend that you pick up the Lunar Chronicles Series. The story is pretty freaking fantastic and original, and the tension remains at a rope-breaking point throughout the entire, crazy-pants plot. Marissa Meyer probably had about a kazillion spreadsheets in order to keep everything straight because it seemed like there was a new problem surfacing on every page. Haha!



But isn't that just the best? When there's so much happening that you don't have a chance to catch your breath? Why, of course it is! That's why we read! To escape the mundane-ness of everyday life! And now that all four (and a half) books are out, they would make an awesome gift for any YA bibliophile in your life. Or, you know, yourself. Whatever. I don’t judge. Haha!


27.11.15

the time we tried to escape

Last weekend, The Remix and I decided it was high time we used our gift certificates for a super cool place called Escape Zone, where you're locked inside a theme room, along with up to four other people. You're given 45 minutes to escape the room, by solving a series of puzzles. Sounds fun, right? That's what we thought!

So we invited my baby brother (who'd given us the gift certificates), along with one of his friends, and made a reservation for 6:30pm.

Naturally, I was so excited that I spent some time on Saturday morning, doing a theme mani.



Later that afternoon, while The Remix and I drove down to Toronto, we began to get nervous. What if we didn't escape? What if it was way harder than we thought it'd be? What if we couldn't even solve one of the puzzles, let alone all of them?

For being a fun night out, it was starting to get stressful.

That stress increased about an hour before our reservation, with both my baby brother and his buddy, echoing the same concerns. We'd chosen an intermediate room, but having zero experience escaping from any room at all, we were worried that we'd overestimated our sleuthing skills.

Arriving at Escape, we noticed a long hallway, filled with tiny pictures of previous teams. There had to be a few thousand. It was crazy! Many of the photos had smiling people, delighted with themselves and holding up signs that said things like: "Smartest ever!" "Nailed it!" And other celebratory exclamations.

But there were also quite a few pictures with bummed-out faces and far less enthusiastic signs like: "Weak Sauce," and "Maybe if I'd had 15 more hours."

Oh God, we muttered to ourselves. We really don't want to be in a sad face picture.

A staff member told us that no electronics were allowed in the room, so we locked our stuff up before being brought into the room we'd chosen, the Music Studio.

Without divulging anything specific, I've put together a gif-tastic representation of our time at Escape, which could best be described as 45 Minutes of The Most Intense Contrasting Emotions of My Life.

As the clock in the room began at 45:00 and counted down, I will keep to the same format.


45:00 - We're locked in the room, brimming with optimistic confidence and a can-do attitude: WE WILL ESCAPE!

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx1MKWWUw


35:00 - After ten minutes, we're confused as to how we're so dumb because we're still stuck on the first clue.

me watching Khloe vs. Amber Rose on Twitter


32:00 - First call for a clue.

(During each 45-minute session, you can call the front desk for two clues. Needless to say, the gal who came to deliver our first clue was concerned that we'd already burned through 12+ minutes on the very first clue. We know this because when she asked us where we'd gotten to and I responded with "Uh, nowhere," she blinked three times in disbelief.)

30:00 - Our first celebration, thanks to the hint from the desk gal.

looking at your selfies


25:00 - Collective, mounting nervousness, because the second puzzle stopped us dead in our tracks for way longer than it should have.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx1MIo_yN


20:00 - Our second Celebration, after we figured it out, all by ourselves. TAKE THAT, ROOM!



15:00 - Utter despair because we'd spent another five whole minutes on the next puzzle and were convinced it was actually a trick and we'd be stuck in the room forever and ever.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx19hxNKa


14:30 - Second Call for Help

Thank goodness for the help button because we would've NEVER figured that particular puzzle on our own. For reals. Only a freaking genius could have put those two elements together (and clearly, we weren't geniuses, haha!).

13:00 - Third Celebration, after solving the fourth puzzle all on our own.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx1ffSxOE


10:00 - Fourth Celebration! Including a group high-five because we'd managed to solve two puzzles in a row, leading us to consider filling out MENSA applications upon our escape. 

When I remember it’s Friday and not Thursday.


5:00 - Complete Panic because we only have five minutes left and we can't figure out what we're doing wrong because we're 99.9% sure we solved the puzzle, but we're still stuck in the room. WHAT THE HELL, ROOM?!

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzqhttp://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzq
http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzqhttp://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzq


1:30 - Our scrambled, victorious emergence from first room, cheering because WE RULE EVERYTHING AND ARE THE SMARTEST EVER OF LIFE!!


0:00 - Time runs out but we're still in the second room. The external door is locked. Confusion abounds.



+1:00 - Staff member enters room, unimpressed with the celebratory cheers he must have heard pre-our discovery of still-locked door.


Why?

Because we'd only made it halfway. HALFWAY, PEOPLE.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx10SeINm

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have jinxed us by painting a theme mani with a locked lock. We'd been doomed from the start. Haha!

The staff member spent about five minutes explaining the rest of the second room, and we just stood there, shaking our heads. This room was bananas crazy, guys. BANANA CRAZY. We could've had double the time and we still wouldn't have figured it out.

Our sad-face picture. Whomp, whomp.

So I'll leave you with this thought: if you're going to Escape for the first time, pick the easiest room, and if you HAVE to do a theme mani, make sure it represents you actually escaping. Trust me, you'll thank me afterwards. Haha!