book review (with cover mani!): pasta wars

There are few things I love more in fiction than a strong woman and a rough-around-the-edges man, but one of those things is pasta. So naturally, the combination of a strong woman, rough-around-the-edges man and pasta made me all kinds of hand-grabby for PASTA WARS. Because pasta

*restrains grabby hands to take picture*

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Slim, successful, and soon to marry the man of her dreams, Katie Cravens is leading the life she always wanted. As the face and CEO of Pasta Pronto, a Carbs for the Calorie-Conscious line of frozen food, Katie chooses to live life like one of her Slimline Spaghetti dinners no mess, no surprises, and everything tied up in a neat little package. But when Katie's fiance runs off with another woman and a quality control fiasco sends her customers running for the hills, it's time for Katie to make a change.

Her company's salvation presents itself in the form of a partnership opportunity with the legendary Ristorante Caramelli of Rome, and Katie has no other choice but to jet off to Italy to convince gorgeous, hotheaded co-owner Luca Caramelli that she's a worthy partner. Gaining Luca's respect proves harder than Katie could have ever imagined, however, when he insists that she must learn how to cook and how to eat true Italian food before he will ever agree to their companies partnership.

Katie and Luca's tension in Italy mounts into a fierce public rivalry that erupts back in the States with a nationally televised cooking competition. As Katie tries to channel her inner Mario Batali to win the competition, she must choose between the flavorless prepackaged life that she worked so hard to maintain and the mouth-watering uncertainty of a life chock full of carbohydrates and Caramellis.


I’ve been a fan of Elisa Lorello for quite some time. Her writing is next-level fantastic and her works illuminate the complexities of relationships while pushing my feeling buttons to the point where I end up ugly crying on an airplane, much to the delight horror of the elderly man sitting next to me (note: this is a true story). Although PASTA WARS is a bit more lighthearted than her other books, I'm happy to report that all of Lorello's fantastic-ness remains intact. (Yay!)

Katie was a relatable hot mess of sad (because nothing is sadder than a hot mess not realizing the degree of their hot mess-ness) and Luca was passionate, cranky, but oh so lovely to imagine, even when he stormed from a room. Or was it especially when he stormed from a room? Haha! Either way, the setup for chemistry was akin to that of a slacker seventh grader’s final project: explosive. Kaboom!

And don’t even get me started on the food. Holy awesomesauce! Literally. Because all of the sauces Luca makes sound freaking incredible. The level of description—what to chop, peel, grate, and drizzle—read like a cookbook. I was honestly left believing that if I followed along, I too could create Luca’s drool-worthy concoctions. And it's just the best when I feel like I’m in the action, kneading and whisking and tasting sweet vine tomatoes alongside flavourful basil. I mean, yum, right? Granted, I was more like Katie than Luca, being that I’m not the greatest chef, but I swear that when Luca melted butter in a pan, I could smell it. Unfair, really, because I wasn't able to eat the delectable treat he nonchalantly whipped up. Like, can a girl get a scone with fresh berries, please? 

So in sum, PASTA WARS matches a relatable female hot mess with an equally relatable hot hunk of man mess and they make pasta together. I seriously don’t know what else you need to know about this book. Just pick it up already! But you should probably have Italian food on standby before you start reading or you’ll be chewing the pages in a vain attempt to taste the deliciousness. (Take my word for it, though, the paper just ends up tasting like paper. Haha!)

I'd also like to give a special shout-out to Elisa for sending me a copy of PASTA WARS. Until January of 2017, it's only available at Barnes & Noble and being from The Great White North, we don't have B&N. *cues weeping* If you're like me, being that you don't have access to B&N, now's the time to scroll through your American contact list and see who can get you a copy. January's a long time away, folks! Especially for a super fun book like this! 


For this mani, I used:

OPI - A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find, Towel Me About It, CIA: Colour Is Awesome, and My Silk Tie
Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism
Julep - Mackenzie
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Top Coat
China Glaze - Immortal
Tools - trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush #9

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


book review (with cover mani!): the grisha trilogy

I started the Grisha Trilogy after they'd all been released and thank frickin' goodness because it would've been a painful wait after finishing SHADOW AND BONE. The writing was so engaging that I read all three books in a week, which is why I decided to review the whole darn thing at once.  Because holy magical awesomeness!

*bangs book review gong*

To avoid spoilers, I'll only share the back jacket for SHADOW AND BONE (Book #1), from Goodreads:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Oh man. This trilogy really was amazing. Just re-reading the back jacket for SHADOW AND BONE put a smile on my face. Haha! There were so many elements to love about this trilogy, but one that stands out in particular is character motivations. In this series, both the good guys and the bad guys long to be part of something bigger than themselves, to feel like they belong. Granted, they had different ways of showing it, by wanting to either save or destroy the kingdom of Ravka, but their motivations came from the same source. 

It was a genius move, really, because every reader has felt the ache of loneliness at some point, and that sympathy snakes its way towards the Darkling who, as you can probably guess by his name, is the bad guy. Nobody’s all good or all bad, and Bardugo's uncanny knack for writing characters who are ripe with redeemable virtues yet also possess terribly unflattering ones, shines throughout each instalment. And by sympathizing with the Darkling, I ended up rooting for both sides. When one side got a win, I'd want to raise my fist in triumph, but I'd also feel a twinge of compassion for the defeated--a seriously cool reading experience.

Rich descriptions are another standout element of the Grisha Trilogy. With technicolor imagery, each scene leaps off the page. When Alina discovers ornate carvings in a grand castle, my fingers grazed the ridges with her, and if characters found themselves shivering on the side of a snowy mountain, I practically had to put on a sweater. 

In addition to awesome characters and killer settings, there’s tons of action in each book--no save-it-for-the-grand-finale stuff happening here!--and the stakes get higher and higher as you go along (to the point where you may read RUIN AND RISING in one day, which is exactly what I did because oh em gee all the things!!). Plus, there’s the whole magical powers thing. And the romance. And, you know, basically everything you'd ever want in a trilogy. Haha!

So yeah. You need to read the Grisha Trilogy because it's a tale that will sharpen your imagination until you basically feel like you’re Alina, and since Alina is wicked cool, that’s a pretty marvelous thing. Also, when you're done you'll need to pick up SIX OF CROWS (the first book in another series) because it's set in the same world and is also all kinds of awesome. But buy hard copies of them all, okay? I mean, you did see the ridiculously gorgeous covers, right? Like I wasn’t going to do a mani for all three? *rings obvious bell*

Yes, I realize I'm recommending you buy four books (technically five because the sequel to SIX OF CROWS comes out in the fall yay!) but I swear you won't regret it. Consider them your summer reading list, if that'll convince you, although I wouldn't be surprised if you whip through the four published books in no time flat because once you get a taste of Grisha life, you won't want to stop.


For the Shadow and Bone mani, I used:
OPI - Alpine Snow, My Silk Tie, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, and Matte Top Coat
China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage and Immortal
NARS - Dovima
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Top Coat
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, saran wrap, trimmed striping brush

For the Siege and Storm mani, I used:
piCture pOlish - salt water
Julep - Amy
OPI - Alpine Snow, My Silk Tie, Rollin' In Cashmere, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Malaga Wine, You Don't Know Jacques, CIA: Color Is Awesome, and Matte Top Coat
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #10, trimmed striping brush

For the Ruin and Rising mani, I used:
OPI - A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Malaga Wine, My Silk Tie, and Matte Top Coat
China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage and Immortal
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, saran wrap, trimmed striping brush

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


book review (with cover mani!): lowcountry book club

LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB is the fifth book in the Liz Talbot mystery series and totally my favourite (so far)! All the delightful things I love about Liz were woven throughout this very twisty tale, and there were a few unexpected bonus pieces of awesomeness, too. Yay for unexpected bonus pieces of awesomeness! Haha!


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Somebody pushed Shelby Poinsett out her second-floor library window and it wasn’t her husband. At least that what Charleston’s most prestigious law firm wants Liz Talbot to prove. Liz must run the spectrum of Southern society, from the local homeless shelter where Shelby volunteered to the one-hundred-year-old book club where Charleston’s genteel ladies are dying to join, to bring a killer to justice.


Liz Talbot is a fantastic character. She believes in the old-school way of investigating and isn’t afraid to throw on a granny wig, fake a limp, and charm information out of someone who’s never the wiser. And in this installment, Liz investigates the members of a long-standing book club, so naturally, I was all about it!

Being from the North (like, waaaaaaay north, meaning Canada) I'm moderately obsessed with everything Southern: the accents, colloquialisms, architecture, and of course, the food. Oh em gee, the food! While devouring LOWCOUNTRY BOIL, I learned to not read on an empty stomach because Boyer's knack for food descriptions had my stomach rumbling on more than one occasion, and in LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB, there were too many delectable dishes to count. In fact, she even includes poutine! As previously stated, I’m Canadian, so seeing the fusion of one of my country’s signature dishes with a Southern twist was pretty cool. And Boyer even went so far as to specify that cheese curds were used, instead of shredded cheese (which is basically an insult to poutine #cheesecurdsforlife).

But enough about food (mmm...food), because this book is a cozy mystery, which means there was much more than eating going on. Namely, finding out who killed Shelby Poinsett! With few solid leads, Liz and her partner Nate have no choice but to interview everyone who knew her (spoiler alert: Shelby knew about half of Charleston, haha) and that's precicely why I dig this series so much. There's never an obvious guilty party. Sure, there are characters who stand out as suspects, but Boyer's too smart to hand them to you on a silver platter. At one point, I was so sure I knew who killed Shelby that I would've bet this month's book money, but thankfully it wasn't a real bet because otherwise, July would've been a sad, new-book-less month. I wasn't even close! Haha!

The usual cast of quirky and endearing characters are all accounted for as well, and one of the unexpected bonus pieces of awesomeness concerns Liz’s brother, Blake. I won’t spoil it, but when you’ve read LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB, can you please message me? I’m dying to talk to someone about it! 

So if you like mysteries where you’ll be guessing until the very end, told in that wonderfully melodic Southern way, then you should absolutely check out this series! But start from the beginning or you’ll miss out on getting to know these fabulous characters. Trust me on that one.

(Note: I received a complimentary copy of LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB for consideration, but in no way did it influence my review. I keep it real, folks! Haha!)

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Mod About You, Alpine Snow, Black Onyx, Malaga Wine, Suzi Has A Swede Tooth, You Are So Outta Lime, and You Don't Know Jacques
Julep - Dawn and Francis
China Glaze - Boho Blues, Inteligence Integrity & Courage
ORLY - Mirrorball
Nina Ultra Pro - Hint of Mint
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush #9, #10, and a trimmed striping brush from Amazon

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