book review (with cover mani!): jane steele

The second I saw the cover of JANE STEELE, I knew it had to be mine. I mean, vintage weapons? Bursts of blood? A beautiful matte finish? Yes please. And when I picked it up to read the back blurb, my hands became all sorts of grabby.

*extreme grabby hands*

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

Reader, I murdered him.

A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre.

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?


So yeah. A gothic retelling of Jane Eyre sounded like the greatest concept of all time and much to my delight, it was as fabulous as I’d hoped it would be. Jane Steele is a charming character, which may sound strange because she’s also a bit of a murderess, but then again, I love me some murderesses. Haha! And what makes Jane sympathetic is that although she’s quick with a switchblade, it’s always for a good cause. Back in Jane’s day, women were particularly vulnerable, so when her friends got into trouble, Jane stepped in on their behalf. 

And yet, this book isn’t even almost a female Dexter. While that renowned character is unequivocally without a soul, Jane Steele’s remains firmly in place. She has a moral compass she doesn’t stray from, often sacrificing herself in order to rescue others. So when she arrives back at Highgate House, after surviving a whole host of unfortunate (and deadly) events, she’s a much different woman. She’s more assured and confident, but she never loses her fundamental desire: to belong.

Because at her core, Jane is lonely. Without a home or any family, she yearns for love. Even after all she’s done and all she’s witnessed, Jane still believes in love. It was uplifting, to be frank. And as in Jane Eyre, her love interest, Mr. Thornfield, isn’t exactly all sunshine and bonbons, but he sure is nice to look at, in that deliciously rugged, tortured-soul kind of way, and his sense of humour is dry and witty, with just enough light-hearted teasing for Jane to remain unsure on whether he's flirting or simply being kind. Mmmm...Mr. Thornfield. Haha!

The sheer amount of historical information folded into the plot of JANE STEELE is remarkable, and the writing is melodic and engaging. So if you’re into dark but relatable plots with endearing, emotionally scarred characters who capture your heart, then this book is for you!

For this mani, I used:

Liquid Leather and White on White, by China Glaze.
Dovima, by NARS.
Matte Top Coat, by OPI.
A trimmed, thin nail art brush and small dotting tool.

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


book review (with cover mani!): visions

VISIONS is the second book in Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series and let me tell you, this is a series you need to read. Especially if you’re a fan of deep, layered mysteries, a female protagonist who doesn't take any crap, and two very different smokin’ hot dudes. Haha!

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.


Picking up where OMENS dropped off, Olivia’s still on a mission to investigate the murders her parents were convicted of when—uh oh!—another dead body surfaces. How does Olivia know this? Because the dead woman comes to her. Literally, as she appears in Olivia's car. And even worse? The dead woman dressed up as Olivia, meaning the whole thing is creepy to the max.

Luckily for Olivia, or unluckily depending how you want to look at it, creepy is kind of her comfort zone. So with the help from Gabriel, her lawyer, they get to work figuring it all out. I won’t spoil the details, because only a monster would steal your ability to be surprised, and rest assured guys and gals, you will be surprised.

And you won't just be surprised by the plot, either. For me, I was most taken aback with how attached I’d become to Olivia and her gang of paranormal peeps. I mean, I knew that I liked everybody, but a certain character secretly wormed their way into my affections to a degree that I hadn't anticipated. Case-in-point, during one particular scene, I cried. Yes, in italics, because it was all sorts of an ugly cry. My heart…it hurt. And I'm not even sure if the purpose of that scene—the brief lift of the curtain—was supposed to touch me like it did, but in any event, the end result was this:

And that's what's so cool about the Cainsville series. Although it's written in first-person, meaning we get the story from Olivia's POV, there are a scattering of third-person chapters that give us a taste of what's happening in the minds of other characters, and one of those simple chapters is what ripped my heart into a zillion pieces. It was understated, to the point, and oh so powerful. 

I think it's also important to note that VISIONS had one more element I hadn't expected, and it came in the form of a few very steam scenes. I'm talking about a bananapants level of steam, guys and gals, only...you know...without the pants. Haha! It allowed for a little break from the plot's intensity, and what a break it was. 

So yeah, I was already sold on this series, but now I'm officially obsessed and it's been very challenging to deal with real life when all I want to do is read the next book. If you're into paranormal mysteries, you simply MUST pick up these books.

For this mani, I used:
My Silk Tie and Matte Top Coat by OPI
Liquid Leather and Sexy in the City by China Glaze
Makeup to Breakup by ORLY
Marion and Phoebe by Julep
HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten and Glow
A thin, trimmed nail art brush
A triangular makeup sponge, cut in half


book review (with cover mani!): yellow brick war

The Dorothy Must Die Series is pretty much the best. A reimagining of Oz where Dorothy's the villain? YES PLEASE! Haha! And the latest instalment is book three, titled YELLOW BRICK WAR, which continued the same awesome story, found in the first two.

(Caution: there are some mild spoilers in my review--nothing that would take away from your enjoyment of the books, but this is book three, so if you want to be surprised about EVERYTHING, you may just want to look at my mani and then bail. Haha!)

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

In this dark, action-packed third book in the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die series, Amy Gumm—the new girl from Kansas—must do everything in her power to save Kansas, kill Dorothy, and make Oz a free land once more.

Amy Gumm’s mission to take down Dorothy Gale is not going according to plan. Dorothy has found a way to bridge the worlds of Oz and Kansas, and if the power-hungry dictator of Oz has her way, Kansas will be destroyed forever. Now, Amy has to team up with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked to save her home, restore the balance between the magic and nonmagic worlds, maybe get the guy—and kill that not-so-sweet Kansas farm girl once and for all.

In the third installment of the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die series, Danielle Paige’s twisted versions of beloved Oz characters are back, including the biggest, baddest, most famous of all: the Wicked Witch of the West.

Welcome to the other side of the rainbow. Here there’s danger around every corner, and magic shoes won’t be able to save you.


Poor Amy Gumm. She really can't catch a break. She becomes one of the lucky few to arrive in Oz, only to find that it's gone to hell in a hand basket--probably the same hand basket Dorothy had used to hold Toto. You know, until Toto turned into a gigantic beast who'd eat your face, courtesy of Dorothy's evil magic. Haha!

It's hard to tell from my picture, but the book cover has a matte finish, except for the certain parts of the yellow brick road and the title. I am seriously loving all the matte/glossy combinations, they really pop!

What I really appreciate about this series is just how different Oz is from the original story I know and love. Sure, there's still magic--heck it's what everybody's fighting over--but each once-familiar character is virtually unrecognizable. Corrupted, as only absolute power can do. And yet, nobody's too bad or too good. There's a saying that a writer must understand every antagonist is the protagonist in their own story, and this series is an excellent example of that. Yup, Dorothy's lost it, but she's still just sympathetic enough to avoid becoming a cardboard super-villain. And yeah, Glinda's a sparkly pink ball of terror, but we know how she got there and it's a little bit sad. Bad choices, yes, but human ones. Add some unpredictable magic into the equation and you've got some outstanding antagonists--ones who I'm kind of obsessed with. 

Along the same vein, The Dorothy Must Die series doesn't have a definitive line between "good" actions and "bad" actions. The Order of the Wicked (coven of witches attempting to overthrow Dorothy) reminds me of The Maze Runner series, specifically the phrase: Wicked is good. But are they? Are these witches who claim to be helping Amy get rid of Dorothy really working in Amy's best interest? Of course not. They know it, she knows it, and that's why this series is so interesting. Nobody can be trusted yet somebody has to lead the way, otherwise Oz will cease to exist all together, which isn't an option any want to consider. So that means Amy must fight her impulse--the ball of worry in her stomach, if you will--and follow the Order's instructions, even when it means sacrificing herself over and over again. Especially in YELLOW BRICK WAR, where Amy's forced to not just battle Dorothy, but her own past as well, the fate of both worlds hanging heavy on her shoulders like a formerly-flying monkey. Yikes, to put it mildly. 

So if you're a fan of the original WIZARD OF OZ, you'll love the Dorothy Must Die series. All of your favourite characters are reimagined in ways that you'd never believe and the action never stops. Throw in some teenage angst and a little bit of romance, and an already original tale becomes even better, which pretty much means that you need to read this series. I already can't wait for the next release!

For this cover mani, I used:

Lissa, Janae, Linda, and Dawn by Julep
HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten and Glow
Matte Top Coat by OPI
Trimmed nail art brush
Triangular make-up sponge