book review with cover mani: simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda

I've been working my way through the backlog of ebooks on my Kindle, and last week, it was time for SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Holy awesome book alert, people!! I laughed, teared up, and finished with a song in my heart. Gah! I loved it so much!

*stops hugging book in order to display the cover*

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Simon's voice was probably my favourite part of SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Articulate and upbeat, wry and insightful, Simon captured my attention right away. Like most interesting people, he wasn't perfect, and his endearing mix of confident insecurity made him supremely relatable. Coming out is no easy feat. Being a teenager is hard enough without worrying about sexual identity proclamations and yet, I never lost faith that Simon would get through. Battered and bruised perhaps, but he'd make it.

That said, I was still nervous as hell for him. There wasn't a lot of "action" in this book, but a ticking clock, in the form of Martin's blackmailing, created a sense of urgency. Even when Simon played it cool, he remained aware of the stakes--that he was at the mercy of another person--and his behaviour fell in line, despite Simon's reluctance. Ugh. Martin was the worst*! 👎

*Look, I get that Martin's character was also a teenager and he deserves some sympathy for his decisions, but he was still the worst. Understandably the worst, but the worst, nonetheless.

Along with the central blackmail conflict via Martin aka Monkey's Asshole (Simon's nickname, not mine, although I whole-heartedly agree 😏), Simon also had to deal with typical social problems. Namely, jealousy, the trickiest of all emotions. But in between setting friendships on fire and tossing water on others, Simon fell more and more in love with his maybe-boyfriend, Blue. OMG, guys, it was legit the cutest thing ever! I remember a time when I emailed like crazy with my now-hubs, and reading Simon and Blue's exchanges brought me back. There's something special about writing versus talking. It allows the time to reflect before answering, lessoning the chance of an awkward moment. Simon's personality was so charming in those emails, it was no wonder that Blue fell under his spell. Like, is there a SIMON RULES t-shirt I can order? Haha!

So, in sum, you need to read this book, especially if you're feeling a little blue (see what I did there? 😆). There's romance, mystery, and in the end, you'll have a huge smile on your face, along with a few happy tears. Yup. This one's a must-read. And when you do get around to reading it (doitnowdoitnow), have a box of Oreos on hand. Also, Reese Peanut Butter Cups. At times, they're discussed at length and you'll definitely want to eat some. They're the perfect companion for this delicious book.

(OMG I just checked out Becky Albertalli's Twitter and SIMON is going to be made into a movie!!!! I AM FREAKING OUT. Here's all the info (but there are spoilers, so beware): http://beckyalbertalli.tumblr.com/post/156223996311/simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda-movie-meet-the)


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Red My Fortune Cookie
Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mache
ORLY - Skinny Dip
Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat
Black latex paint for the letters
A striping brush thinned out to near extinction and piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 10.


book review and cover mani: the vanishing year

I've seen this gorgeous book around IG, but somehow, it got lost in my TBR. 😢 However, it popped up during Kate Moretti's week on the Tall Poppy Writers' Bloom page (a super cool FB place where authors connect with readers, and each week, a different author hosts discussions). The timing couldn't have been better, because I was in the mood for a chilling thriller. I read the first few chapters over a couple of days, and then finished the last 70% in one night, staying up waaaaay too late. The sleepy day was totally worth it, so you know I had to paint my nails! Haha!

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her. As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely. 

The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.

Right away, THE VANISHING YEAR drew me in with its sense of unease. Zoe's husband seemed sketchy from the get-go and Zoe remained alert at all times, constantly evaluating other characters' behaviour, along with her environment. Happy, content people with nothing to hide don't normally do that, so it was clear that Zoe wasn't the most reliable narrator. 


My uneasy feelings continued to grow, thanks to the perfectly-placed flashback chapters, and before long, I suspected every single person in Zoe's inner circle. Twists abounded in THE VANISHING YEAR and my point-of-no-return came rather quickly, hence my sleepless night, and then something so insane happened that I had to use every ounce of willpower in my possession to not shake my hubs awake and scream: "I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK."

For reals. I...I don't know what else to say. The twisty plot knocked me on my ass, which is extra impressive because I was already horizontal. And they weren't "I didn't see that coming but now that I look back, it makes sense," kind of twists, either. Nope, Kate Moretti presented some straight-up literary awesome-ness, served with a side of "shut up, oh no she didn't," and it was the greatest thing ever. 

So if you love psychological thrillers, add this one to your list and then read it right away. Call in sick to work if you can't function on very little sleep because once you get past the first few chapters of THE VANISHING YEAR, you won't be able to put it down. Prepare your life accordingly. Haha! (But seriously.)


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Give Me Space and Towel Me About It

China Glaze - Too Yacht To Handle and The Outer Edge

Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat

Black latex paint

Makeup sponge and trimmed striping brush


book review with cover mani: the impossible fortress

With my love for glitter and the word awesome, it should come as no surprise that I was all about THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS. Set in the 1980s, and centered around a crew of three, fourteen-year-old boys who do everything they can to get their hands on a Playboy magazine, I was ten kinds of please let me read this! It was a positive joy to read, and I can't frickin' wait to tell you all about it.

The synopsis, from Goodreads:

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.


There's a significant possibility that you've seen this book already, because it came out yesterday, and if that's the case, you're probably all: What the heck is this cover, Jennie? It's not even almost like the one at the bookstore. 

The final cover

Well, I was lucky enough to get an ARC of THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS, and the cover changed between when I received the book, and when it was published. I didn't double-check before embarking on the most challenging cover mani of my entire life (OMG 90-degree angles and detail overload), and it turns out the joke was on me because the actual cover has a much less intricate design. Anyway, since I spent the better part of a day trying to freehand all the maze insanity, I wasn't about to redo it. Also, I ran out of matte top coat and my supplier was out too, which is why the cover and nails aren't in the same finish. So if you really think about it, this was an impossible mani, and in that case, it actually matches perfectly. Haha! 

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, on with the review!

This book was a fun, quick read, and if you know anything about 80s computer programming, you're going to be in heaven. Each chapter started with a bit of code, which made me giggle because it reminded me of when I'd watch my dad. For the record, I never understood what he was doing, but I still enjoyed being a small part of the process, which was basically eating Cheetos and not touching any of his equipment. Haha!

However, even though I don't have experience in vintage computer gaming, I do remember quite a bit about the decade. Pop-Tarts and neon colours and Bagel Bites, oh my! Rekulak got each one dead-on, so the setting became its own character, arguably my favourite.

I say arguably, because the three boys, Billy (Will), Alf (yes, like the alien), and Clark were endearing in their own weirdo ways. As supporting characters, Alf and Clark added a lot of fun to the plot, but Billy represented the rare teenage boy who's willing to act in a way that separates him from the pack. This is a boy who doesn't back down, even when he's terrified (actually, he did succumb to peer pressure at times, but hey, who doesn't? 😉). And that, my friends, made me like him from the very first chapter.

In between the Playboy quest and comedic, teenage-boy quips (mostly by Alf), THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS offered a tale that seemed simple at first, and then became unbelievably complicated. As a reader, I could sense danger on the horizon. But the kids, like any normal teens, didn't share that foresight. Their determination didn't account for negative outcomes while my adult brain was all uh oh, spaghettio. As such, I found my anxiousness building, confident the bottom would fall out but not sure when it would happen. Kind of like watching a car with no brakes roll backwards down the hill. I knew it'd be bad, and the only question was how bad. Well let me tell you. It was bad. Like, car-rolled-into-a-Pop-Rocks-factory-and-exploded, kind of bad.

That said, THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is a book that makes you feel good. Yes, there were ups and downs, but at the end, the simultaneous story lines created a warm and fuzzy experience. I laughed, teared up, and ultimately felt uplifted. So if you're into a trip down memory lane that'll give you lots of positive feels (along with a few points of stress-eating tension) THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is for you! It was released yesterday, Feb 7, so find it at a bookstore near you! And if you're on Goodreads, there's a giveaway happening right now, up until Feb 21st. Woot!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me this ARC! (Which in no way affected my review; you know I keep it real!)


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Aquadelic, White on White, and Liquid Leather

OPI - A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find and My Dogsled Is A Hybrid

essie - after school boy blazer

Julep - Lissa

Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat

Thin striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no 9, and all the patience I possessed.