book review (with cover mani!): crooked kingdom

Instead of waiting until the end of my review, I've decided to start with my recommendation. In short: you must read the Six of Crows duology, for which CROOKED KINGDOM is the sequel. Leigh Bardugo is a frickin' evil genius (in the most complimentary way possible). She created unbelievably rich characters--the kinds of characters you cheer for even when they're not at their best--and then dropped them into a breath-holding plot, where everything that can go wrong, does. So do yourself a solid and pick up SIX OF CROWS. You'll get sucked in right away, and after you've taken a moment to recover from its ruthless roller coaster of emotion, you'll be ready for the tension-riffic sequel, CROOKED KINGDOM.

Okay. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on with the rest of my review! As with all the series I review, I won't include any sort of spoiler (or the synopsis because it also has spoilers) but I will gush about why CROOKED KINGDOM is the best sequel ever in existence. 

*points enthusiastically*

I gravitate towards plot-based novels, as my attention span needs action to stay engaged, and the Six of Crows series definitely hits the mark. Kaz's complicated plans always kept me guessing, and so many things went wrong that at times, I was too nervous to keep reading. In fact, I probably took three breaks (or more) during CROOKED KINGDOM, where I had to stop myself from Googling spoilers, because I was freaking out about a certain character's fate and needed to prepare myself. The idea I was even contemplating such an act should serve as a testament to the unrelenting tension. If I bit my nails, they'd be a jagged, mangled mess.

But along with a plot that made my heart flutter and ache, is a tremendous cast of characters. They came from different lands, different perspectives, and different backgrounds, but joined forces as a band of misfits who worked together in order to survive. 

There's Kaz, aka Dirtyhands, the bastard of the Barrel; Inej, aka The Wraith, who finds and keeps the darkest of secrets; Jesper, a gambling addict with a bullseye aim and matching pearl-handled pistols; Nina, a Grisha who uses her powers to keep casualties at a minimum (at first, anyway); Matthias, a former soldier trained to hunt Grisha, who finds love in the most unexpected place; and Wylan, a merchant's son with a hidden talent of his own. What a crazy group of young adults, eh? I don't think I'd be able to pick which character I liked most. All are flawed, vulnerable, strong, courageous and brave, and they all feel like family. Granted, the kind of family who you wouldn't put out the fine china for because you'd lose at least half the silver, but family nonetheless. 

And having such a diverse cast meant that each character had his or her own goal, which translated into conflicting actions--the constant weighing of which goal was the most important. Naturally, that depended on who was in charge and who was willing to go behind their back. Gah, I love these books so much!!

So in reference to the beginning of my review, why haven't you started reading this duology yet? I mean, what more could you ever want from a pair of books? Plus, the pages have coloured edges! Black for SIX OF CROWS and red for CROOKED KINGDOM. Too frickin' cool, right?! It's like the duology that keeps on giving! So buy them, people. Buy them and read them now! Then go back to the bookstore and pick up copies to give away. Do whatever you can to spread the awesomeness around. Because doesn't everybody deserve a little bit of awesomeness? :) 


For this mani, I used:

Julep - Spencer and Faye
Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism
OPI - Big Apple Red and Matte topcoat
Tools - triangular makeup sponge, trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9


book review (with cover mani!): the thousandth floor

You know when a cover is so frickin' pretty that you don't really care what the book's about because you just need the beauty on your bookshelf so you can stare at it forever and ever? Well when it comes to THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR, not only do you get a stunning cover, but you get a super cool story, too! That's a double win, folks!

*bangs awesome book gong*

The back jacket, from Goodreads:


A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.


A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you're this high up, there's nowhere to go but down...


Welcome to the future, fellow readers! A world where technology takes care of most menial tasks with the simple push of a button. Like for reals, how much longer will it be until I can get a device that perfectly curls my hair, and then pins it back with an incandescent flower that changes colour? Or how about self-driving hover cars--the new, driverless Uber! When is that going to happen? And have you ever been unexpectedly caught in the rain? Well fear no more, people, because in future, rain is scheduled, and most of Manhattan lives in a single building, comprised of one thousand floors. Yup, it's an entirely different world. One of convenience, splendour, and luxury. But to quote the profound lyrical genius The Notorious B.I.G., "It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see." And wowee, guys and gals, are there ever problems. 

Drug problems. Unrequited love. Betrayal. Exile. Jealousy. Yup, THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR has them all! Each character has his or her own arc--a goal they want to achieve--and much to my delight, they're in conflict with each other, right from the start. And although most characters live on the upper floors, in a virtual bubble of decadence, there are others who maintain a more average existence. Their grounded view provides an opportunity for growth, as they hold up a mirror to the upper floor kids who are trapped in dramas of their own creation while blissfully oblivious to everyday struggles. Don't get it twisted though, because each character in THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR has hidden agendas and motivations, no matter what floor they live on.

I connected to each character pretty early on, and wound up rooting for just about everybody. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and when it comes to imaginative technological developments, the ideas are next-level. But hidden inside the tension that kept me turning pages was a subtle, yet powerful message. One character had both a female and male love interest, and aside from an inquisitive friend asking for the hot and steamy deets, there wasn't one opinion or judgement on the matter. Nobody so much as blinked at the switch and man, as much as I look forward to instant hair curling machines and chauffeur-less rides, I really hope it's not another hundred years before we can stop worrying about gender. Love is love, people. End of discussion. And this is the first book I've read (outside of high fantasy) where it wasn't an issue that needed dissection or explanation. So mega props to Katharine McGee for normalizing fluid sexuality. It's hard to convey a message without coming across as preachy, and she did a bang-up job. (Also, mega props to myself for only making that one pun, haha!)

So if you're looking for a new series that includes fantastical technological advancements alongside good old-fashioned, high-intensity teenage drama, then THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR is for you! With the crazy pants ending to this one, I know that I'll definitely be picking up the second. :)


For this mani, I used:

Fingerpaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism
China Glaze - Gossip Over Gimlets and Wood You Wanna?
Julep - Spencer
OPI - Matte Topcoat
Tools - piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 10, trimmed striping brush, small dotting tool 

And for more book and nail pics, check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)


book review (with cover mani!): home

When I first got wind that Harlan Coben had written another book in the Myron Bolitar series, and it would include the usual gang of Win, Esperanza, and Big Cyndi, but also Mickey, Ema, and Spoon, I did this for no less than four minutes:


Because life isn't fair, my preorder got delayed by over a week (which made me all kinds of stabby) but in the end, it finally arrived. I tore open the package and stroked the front cover, losing my mind with excitement. But after I returned from the kitchen with a reading snack, my devious pooch Pickle had stolen my copy and whisked it away to his country house. THE NERVE. Haha! Anyway, I snatched it back and proceeded to burn through the whole thing in two sittings. 

Look at that diva face! Pickle's such a ham. 

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Ten years after the high-profile kidnapping of two young boys, only one returns home in Harlan Coben’s next gripping thriller, to be published in September 2016.

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend? Drawing on his singular talent, Harlan Coben delivers an explosive and deeply moving thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.


I don't want to age Coben unnecessarily, but I vividly remember buying his books in my teenage years. During that time, I worked multiple jobs and spent my money only on the essentials: Manic Panic, artisan bagels, prom and, of course, Myron Bolitar books. Did I get razzed by my friends? Of course not. They all loved books, too. But when they were reading about fantasy worlds and cute cowboys, I was following Myron et al on another case. And while I love each book in Coben's expansive repertoire (which I can say with certainty because I've read them all) I'm crazypants for the Myron Bolitar series. In fact, I'm nervous to even pick up my paperback copy of DROPSHOT because the spine is hanging on by a thread and each page looks like it's been dipped in tea. 

For reals, guys. I cannot stress how much I love these books. 

Through the years, I feel like I've run multiple gauntlets with this motley crew, and while HOME has more action than a Bruce Willis blockbuster, the biggest surprise is that Myron shares his POV with another character. I won't tell you who, but if you've read even one book from the Myron Bolitar series, you'll understand the utter fabulosity that is HOME. I want to squeal just thinking about it!! So many questions are answered, people. Not all, of course, because that's not much fun, but holy cannoli, are there links. And reveals. And so much awesome that I nearly fell off the couch and injured myself. 

In terms of a recommendation, maybe you could read HOME as a standalone, but I'm hesitant to encourage you. Without at least a little build-up, the bomb dropping won't mean much. 

(*internal sequel squeal*)

Then again, even without truly understanding the bomb dropping, the plot is twisty and unpredictable. Nothing is what it seems, and nobody close to the case of the missing boys can be trusted. In true Coben form, even with my Master of Deduction skills, I still couldn't figure it out. Haha! 

So the choice is yours, fellow readers! You can enjoy HOME as a surprising thriller standalone, or you can read all ten of the previous books and then finish with this one. Yay for a fall reading list? You're welcome. ;)


For this mani, I used:

Julep - Myriam
OPI - Red My Fortune Cookie
ORLY - White Tips
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat
Tools - thin straight tape from What's Up Nails, piCture pOlish nail art brush no.10

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