29.3.16

book review (with cover mani!): fool me once

When I learned that Harlan Coben was releasing a new thriller, I immediately pre-ordered it, and lucky for me, it came just in time for Easter weekend, where we were without power for four days. Two of those days went by quickly, mostly because I was immersed in a twisty tale of deception, loyalty, and perseverance, so if you haven't read FOOL ME ONCE yet, I highly recommend putting it in your emergency kit. Haha!


The synopsis, from Goodreads:

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself. 

___

Maya is a poised, former captain in the military and as such, her decisions are made with precision—the execution sharp and definitive. There isn’t much grey in Maya’s world. She sees things differently than most. Perhaps it’s her military background, or maybe a natural propensity to keep people at arm’s length—because those we love can be taken away from us with no notice, at any time—but the end result is a woman who isn’t capable of turning her training off. She can appreciate a fun, family-rich scene, yet she is unable to cross the threshold herself and just be. Even worse, Maya's aware of her detachment, and understands her choice: you can't protect freedom and also experience it. Unfortunately, war doesn't work like that. 

So having Maya be a mother is an excellent example of why Harlan Coben is the boss. Because the most unlikely role Maya could ever play--a role that requires engaged attention laced with love--is that of mother. And not just any mother, but the mother to a two-year old girl, one who requires said attention-laced love. Those kinds of contradictions and moral ambiguity are what make Harlan Coben’s work so binge-read-y. Case-in-point, I read FOOL ME ONCE with a flashlight perched on my shoulder because I literally couldn’t stop.

Ugh. It was so freaking hard to make the letters in "Once" crisp, over top the shattered glass frame. I did a few layers of polish on the letters, to try and darken them, but that just blurred them more. Le sigh. Haha! I do love how recent book covers had had both matte and glossy finishes, and it suits this cover perfectly, because the "glass" in the picture frames really stands out.

Like most of Coben's work, FOOL ME ONCE stays away from the gruesome violence that can be found in other thrillers, sometimes as a gimmicky way to keep a reader interested, mostly because he doesn’t need it. There’s more than enough intrigue to have readers turning the next page…and the next…and then another. I'm hesitant to cite the myriad of specific reasons on why I loved every second of Maya's quest for the truth, because even the smallest detail could become spoiler-y, which again, is part of the reason why I love Coben's novels so much. Nothing is ever as it seems, especially in this case. So really, the title couldn’t be more fitting.  



If you're into thrillers and mysteries with a steady beating heart and more twists and turns than a freaking roller coaster--a book you'll burn through faster than kindling on a fire--then pick up FOOL ME ONCE! Even Pickle loved it! Haha!



For this cover mani, I used:
Dovima by NARS
Sun Worshiper and Liquid Leather by China Glaze
Abbie by Julep
Matte Top Coat by OPI
HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten and Glow
A thin, trimmed nail art brush, and saran wrap for the marbled base


9.3.16

book review (with cover mani!): the perfect son

One of the fun parts about being a member of the Women's Fiction Writer's Association is the discovery of new authors. There's just so much freaking talent in the WFWA, guys and gals. So freaking much!! And Barbara Claypole White definitely is no exception. Her third novel, THE PERFECT SON, was a masterful pileup of contradictory emotions: heart-swelling versus heartbreak, hope versus despair, and denial versus acceptance. In other words, it was one captivating read, and I literally hugged it when I finished. 



The synopsis, from Goodreads:

From a distance, Felix Fitzwilliam, the son of an old English family, is a good husband and father. But, obsessed with order and routine, he’s a prisoner to perfection. Disengaged from the emotional life of his North Carolina family, Felix has let his wife, Ella, deal with their special-needs son by herself.

A talented jewelry designer turned full-time mother, Ella is the family rock…until her heart attack shatters their carefully structured existence. Now Harry, a gifted teen grappling with the chaos of Tourette’s, confronts a world outside his parents’ control, one that tests his desire for independence.

As Harry searches for his future, and Ella adapts to the limits of her failing health, Felix struggles with his past and present roles. To prevent the family from being ripped apart, they must each bend with the inevitability of change and reinforce the ties that bind.

___



In a crisis, there are several options: step up, step aside, or run away. No doubt, it’s a scary time for whoever’s involved, and more so if you’re a neurotic hot mess who’s never had to be in charge of family matters. Enter: Felix.

Oh Felix. At times, I wanted to scream at him. He was just so critical and negative, not just in regards to himself, but everyone else around him. And when he’s required to become an active parent in his son Harry’s life, it’s certainly not an easy transition. For the first part of the book, I couldn’t connect with Felix, but slowly, backstory appeared and each time, a little piece of my heart would break and float to the ground (where I’d pick it up straight away because Felix loathes a dirty floor). Poor Felix. He never really stood a chance, and at times, I was awed by Claypole White’s ability to create a hyper-self-aware character who doesn’t appear to have much self-awareness. On the inside, Felix was basically freaking out twenty-four-seven, but the only way he was able to express his worry was through criticism. Obviously, this character element didn't win him any friends, and even worse, it created a combative relationship between himself and Harry, to the point that I worried he wouldn't be able to get it together. 


The cover has a yellowish tint and I'm sad to say that I couldn't quite replicate it. When I tried, the trees and the sky blended into each other too much, so I had to keep the sky bluer than it appears on the cover. And don't get me started on how challenging it was to paint the young man on the rock--why are hands/arms so darn hard?! Haha! I'm still pretty happy with the scenery and reflections, but yeah. That poor kid on the rock. He's kind of a blobby disaster. Ha!

In direct contrast to Felix's aloofness was Harry. Sweet, witty, kind Harry. Of all the characters in THE PERFECT SON, Harry was one of my favourites—a flawlessly written teenage boy whose Tourette’s made every day an extraordinary effort. All Harry wanted was to be loved and accepted by those around him and find his own way in the world. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what his father craved as well, yet neither knew how to give love to the other. Or accept it, for that matter.

And that’s what tied this whole book together, for me: love. Love for family, love for spouses, love for children, love for parents, love for basically everybody. How to express it, gather it up, and spread it around when the glue of a family is taken away, which brings me back to my first point: that THE PERFECT SON is a metaphorical Thunderdome of emotions.


In addition to love, I also think that learning to be vulnerable was a theme that applied to each main character. Ella needed to take time for herself instead of centering her life around Harry; Felix had to learn to ask for help when he needed it; and Harry had to gather the courage to transition into adulthood. Add in a couple of more light-hearted supporting characters (one who, in particular, I’d love to take a stroll around a garden with), and Claypole White set a perfect scene for personal growth. Whether each character wanted to do it or not.

So if you're into family sagas ripe with emotional growth, then THE PERFECT SON is for you! Just make sure you hole up in your reading nook with some tissues, as there's a pretty good chance you'll need them (along with some gin, if you're into that, ha!). 



For this cover mani, I used the following polishes:
Julep: Amy, Bea, Francis, and Eliana.
China Glaze: Sunset Sail, Intelligence Integrity & Courage, and UV Meant to Be.
Opi: You Don't Know Jacques.
Essie: shake your $$ maker.
Fingerpaints: Inkbot Blue.
Topcoat: Glisten and Glow HK Girl Top Coat. 



3.3.16

book review (with cover mani!): omens

A couple of months ago, I spent far too much money at my local bookstore and I’m finally starting to make a dent in the ginormous pile that’s currently serving as my bedside table. Haha! One of those treasures was OMENS, by Kelley Armstrong, and it came highly recommended by staff member Stephanie, who always makes the best suggestions.





Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

___

I’ve never read a Kelley Armstrong book before which, judging from the inside of the front cover, is quite a feat considering she’s written about ten thousand of them. Okay, okay, she’s only written fifty-three (plus a number of other pieces, including short fiction). Slacker. Ha! Anyway, OMENS is the start of a paranormal suspense series, and has one of the most likable main characters I’ve read in a while. I mean, not only does she have an incredibly wry sense of humour (*giggles*) but she can interpret omens. Or, she'll eventually learn to interpret omens. For the time being, she's stuck wondering why she remembers sing-song phrases from a childhood she'd once considered to be a dream. That is, until a news report broke, shattering her crystal and diamond world. 


Poor Olivia-slash-Eden. One moment, she’s a philanthropist-in-training, living in a mansion and taking champagne Jacuzzi baths, and the next second, she’s all over the press as the long-lost daughter of two serial killers. Sounds crazy, right? Well, only the part about champagne Jacuzzi baths; Olivia isn’t even almost the kind of gal who’d be so wasteful and pretentious (one of the many reasons I love her). And that kind of realistic, get-on-with-it mentality serves her well when she decides to leave the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in order to find out the truth about her parents taking up residence in Cainsville, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, where her biological parents used to live.

I had a fun time painting this cover mani but couldn't figure out what to do with my thumb, so when I noticed the spine of the book had a different picture, I tried to add the other raven. As you can see (or not as the case is here, haha), it didn't really work out. I have a limited selection of red polish, and this one is clearly far too dark because the black bird doesn't have enough contrast. #nailfail. Oh well. Can't win 'em all. Haha!

Now, it may seem obvious that the town of Cainsville is a character in its own right (as the series is literally called the Cainsville series), but I didn’t anticipate how much of the book would be about the small, rural community. And that’s really what hooked me. Because yes, there are at least seven different sub-plots that piqued my curiosity, along with delightfully strange characters of all sorts, but I suspect that all paths lead back to Cainsville, where there appears to be a metaphorical onion of paranormal mystery--layers upon layers of intrigue--all they way down to the mysterious gargoyles. What's the deal with those little guys? I need to know! Haha!

So in that sense, OMENS has airs of The Witches of Eastwick, and I'm pretty much obsessed with finding out more about Olivia. Now, I will say that things took a bizarre-o turn at one point, and it almost turned me off, but I was sucked in by that point and had to keep going. 


That’s pretty much all I want to reveal for now, mostly because all I have is speculation as to what’s really going on in Cainsville and at the end of the day, isn’t that what the first book of a series is supposed to do? Poke and prod at your curiosity? Of course it is. Because if the first in a series isn’t intriguing then it hasn't been done right. So rest assured, guys and gals, OMENS is certainly an engaging read and I feel confident that the rest of this series will be bananapants. I'll definitely be picking up the second (which has been out for a bit so I don't have to wait, woot!) and if you're into paranormal mystery/suspense, I recommend that you do, too!