book review and cover mani: wintersong

Last month, I won a copy of WINTERSONG. After seeing it everywhere in the bookstagram world, I was super psyched to dig in. Some reviews suggested that WINTERSONG was a retelling of Labyrinth, but I didn't find that to be the case. Yes, they both feature the Goblin King, and the protagonist is a teenage girl, but WINTERSONG is a wholly original tale that I gobbled up like grapes on a platter. 

The description, from Goodreads:

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones's Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.


Dark and mysterious characters are my jam and the Goblin King totally qualifies. Although the narration was from Liesl's point of view, for me, the Goblin King was the real star. There's a saying in the writing world that an antagonist is the hero to his/her own story, and WINTERSONG is a perfect example of how to create that sort of dimension. It's easy to have a villain act so evil they basically walk around while petting a hairless cat, but to have me questioning how the bad guy became the bad guy? Yes please. As the book went on, I felt overwhelming sympathy for the Goblin King (why can't I know his name?! Can you imagine not even having a name?! *heart pang*) which meant that as much as I wanted to root for Liesl, I had more of a desire to see the Goblin King come out okay. 

Jacket design by Danielle Christopher. 
Jacket photographs: snowglobe © Amy Weiss/Arcangel; flower Natalie Miller/Arcangel

In addition to the sympathetic Goblin King, I really loved WINTERSONG's musical components. I'm not a classical music aficionado, but the vivid descriptions of how Liesl played--what she felt while the music surrounded her--moved me. For Liesl, music is life and her intensity leapt off the page. In a world that told her to stay in the shadows, she didn't squander her opportunity to grow and take hold of her desires. Err...eventually, anyway. She didn't start out that way. Haha! I loved watching her self-confidence grow and she wasn't afraid to toss out a cutting remark here or there. Obsessed with her looks, or lack thereof, the underground world of the goblins turned out to be exactly what Liesl needed. The complexity of feeling furious and grateful worked beautifully. 

Before I conclude, there is a topic I want to discuss. I'm not a fan of romances with enormous age gaps. It feels icky. Seeing Hugh Hefner with a woman in her thirties puts a gross taste in my mouth, so having a centuries-old character with a teenager, even in fiction, makes me squirm. And not in a good way. It's the one consistent bone of contention I have with YA fantasies. WINTERSONG had a touch of "generationally old male character condescends to a teen girl," but not enough to turn me off, and although there was an added creepiness factor that he knew her as a child, it was addressed in a non-threatening way. S. Jae-Jones was smart here, in my opinion, because the focus of the Goblin King's affection was predominantly directed towards Liesl's music and playful personality, which meant he didn't see a child in a sexual way (until she turned 18 but does that really put her on a level playing field with a legitimately older love interest...). Anyway, while WINTERSONG had some yellow flags for me, in this regard, they weren't blazing red like in some others (which I didn't continue reading). 

So if you're in the mood for a dark and beautiful adventure filled with goblins, music, and a woman learning to claim her space in the world, WINTERSONG is the book for you!


For this mani, I used:

Essie - Go With the Flowy

OPI - Alpine Snow and Stay Off the Lawn!

China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

Julep - Millie and Eliana

Triangular makeup sponge, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9, and a trimmed striping brush


book review and cover mani: the lonely hearts hotel

I'm the sort of person who loves to make a list. Whether it be for cleaning the house, getting tax info together or planning a party, when all the boxes are checked, I ride that wave of endorphins like a majestic dolphin. In addition to being on Goodreads, I'm also part of the 50 Book Pledge. The two sites are similar, being they both help me keep track of the books I've read, while also seeing what my friends are up to, but the 50 Book Pledge has a major difference. Badges. Not every book has a badge, but some do. The site has a list of them. *glances back to the first sentence of this paragraph*

That's how I came to pick up THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL. Because I wanted the badge (alllllll the badges, actually, haha!). It took me a little longer to read, due to the heart-hurting sadness, but it was also a phenomenal story and I'm excited to tell you about it. 


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future. 

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one's origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen. 

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they'll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O'Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

It shouldn't have been a big shocker that a book set during the Great Depression, involving orphans, would be sad but wow, was THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL ever sad. Like, I-don't-know-if-I-can-continue kind of sad. Yes, there were glimpses of how strong the human spirit can be, but it was also heartbreaking.

Side note: why aren't nuns the nicest people ever? I mean, they work for the Big Guy Upstairs, but aside from Maria and Mary Clarence, I have yet to read about a warm and cuddly nun (plus, I'm not sure that Mary Clarence even counts, which means Maria is the only one). They're mostly brutal disciplinarians who don't seem to like children in the slightest, and some are downright abusive. Who on earth put those sorts of nightmares in charge of children?! 

Anyway, as you can tell from my side note, the nuns in charge of Rose and Pierrot's orphanage are not of the Maria variety, which made their childhood extremely difficult to read. But the good news is their horrific childhoods served as a launching point for the two entertainers, and it had me rooting for them to a degree that bordered on painful. Because OMG, they deserved a better life. 

Jacket design by Grace Han. Jacket photographs ©
 Getty Images (Starry Sky), F.B. Johnson & Company C. 1985 (Woman Standing on Crescent Moon)

As the book continued, it didn't get much better. I mean, the awful nuns were gone, but Rose and Pierrot's lives were still filled with tragedy. If it weren't for the tiny flickers of hope (and the badge, haha), I would've put THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL in my DNF pile. I mean, my heart can only take so much. However, there was another component of the book that kept my interest: the writing. Although heavy on the metaphors and similes, O'Neill created a magical, whimsical tone:

"On the front arch of an old abandoned bank there was a gargoyle of an angel lying on its back, looking up at the clouds in the sky, having lost complete interest in the world." <-- I mean, come on. A gargoyle is suddenly super interesting. That's some crazy-good writing.

Through death, drug addiction, prostitution, rape, miscarriages, and violence (a lot of violence), Rose and Pierrot remained somewhat detached. If you watch/have read The Magicians, there's a part of the heart--the one that holds pain, grief, and most of one's conscience-- called "shade." For me, Rose and Pierrot didn't have their shade. They went through life numb, to a degree. The world greeted them with agony, so they became accustomed to it. That was probably the saddest part of all, for me. However, I didn't pity Rose and Pierrot. Quite the contrary, I admired them. Chasing your dreams, no matter how many detours you take along the way and how many times you're told to forget them, is a quality that few possess. Despite every obstacle, those two kids reached for the stars.

So look, you may be wondering how the heck I can recommend this book to others, because it's such a downer. Frankly, I'm surprised myself, as I tend to stay away from novels like THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL. It's graphic, in every possibly way, and despite what other reviews have said, I don't agree that fans of THE NIGHT CIRCUS would be into THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL, but if you're looking for a book that challenges the way you see the world--that tears the blinders from your heart and shows you a human experience you'd rather believe doesn't exist--then this is the book for you. But, uh, have something super light and fun locked and loaded for afterwards. Trust me. 


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Queen B and The Outer Edge

OPI - Rollin' in Cashmere, Alpine Snow, and matte top coat

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

ORLY - Wild Wisteria and Charged Up

triangular makeup sponge, trimmed striping brush


book review and cover mani: company town

COMPANY TOWN is one of the quirkier books I've read in a while. It's more hard-core science fiction that my normal choices and I'm so happy I picked it up. The first few chapters were a challenge for me, because the world building happened quickly, and then I suddenly found myself halfway through and completely in love with Hwa--the greatest bodyguard who has ever existed.

*bangs awesome book gong*

The back jacket:

    Look at one of Go Jung-hwa's clients sideways, expert to end up on the floor with a broken arm and busted nose--if she's feeling merciful. 
    As one of the few people without bioengineered genetic enhancements, Hwa is part of a dying breed in the city-sized oil rig New Arcadia. But she's in peak physical condition and, combined with her speed and cunning, can easily go toe-to-toe with some of the most augmented men in town. After all, she's the best bodyguard employed by the United Sex Workers of Canada.
    When Lynch Ltd., a technological tycoon dynasty, purchases the entire rig, Hwa's talents and lack of any sort of altering attract their attention. They have a fifteen-year-old heir to protect, and Hwa fits the bill--any cyborg meathead can be hacked and rewired, but not her. It's an opportunity of a lifetime, especially for someone who's been living on the fringes of poverty her entire life.
    But when one of her former client's--and friend--dismembered body is found floating in the North Atlantic, Hwa finds her loyalties split between her past and future. And it looks as if the future came to collect in the present...


I cannot believe how much I loved COMPANY TOWN. The writing is razor sharp, political, provocative, and sometimes even playful. I read a few chapters while waiting in a doctor's office and couldn't help laughing out loud at Hwa's perfect responses--the sort of comebacks that I dream of saying. Hwa gives exactly zero fucks and I am here for it. Even as I write about her, my shoulders are bobbing with a chuckle. I rarely share quotes, because I think it can ruin the moment, removed from context, but it's the only way I can show you how on-point the writing is. 

     Silas eyed Hwa up and down. "This is what you're looking for in an assistant? She's epileptic. Or something. I don't know. And her mother is a prostitute. A prostitute who pays union dues, but still a prostitute."
      Behind them, Joel gasped. "Silas!"
     "It's okay," Hwa said. "My mom is a whore."
     "See?" Silas smiled. His teeth were huge and perfect and white. "I was just saying what everybody was thinking."
     "Yeah, having her raise me really introduced me to a lot of assholes," Hwa said. "Professional assholes that pay their taxes and everything, but still assholes."

Cover art by Erik Mohr.

Need some ice for that burn, Silas? Haha!! Mic-dropping dialogue aside, let's circle back to Hwa's career choice of becoming a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada. Yes, a union of prostitutes who look out for each other. Clients can be blacklisted if they're bad news and if anyone gets out of line, they get a punch to the throat. Love, love, love. And I haven't even gotten to the plot yet: the mystery behind Hwa's friend's death. In between being a badass and teaching others self-defence, Hwa investigates a grisly murder. Her detective work uncovers far more than she'd intended to find, and each revelation ups the stakes.

Also, the entire book takes place on a city-sized oil rig, in futuristic New Arcadia, Newfoundland. I mean...I can't, guys. I CANNOT. It's too good! Hwa speaks just like my wonderful friends from the Rock, dropping b'ys left and right, and it's the greatest ever.

I haven't read any of the other four finalists in CBC's Canada Reads 2017 but I don't care. THIS IS THE WINNER. The ending wasn't quite what I'd expected, which was a bit of a bummer, but the book is otherwise awesome. I'll be reading Madeline Ashby's series about killer robots (vN and iD) asap and I'm beyond psyched to have found another fantastic Canadian author. Go Canada!! So in closing, if you're into science fiction and strong female protagonists, COMPANY TOWN is definitely the book for you! 

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Towel Me About It, Alpine Snow, You Don't Know Jacques, CIA = Color Is Awesome, matte topcoat, and nail polish thinner

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism

Julep - Abbie

trimmed striping brush, piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 10, triangular makeup sponge


book review with cover mani: the hate u give

I’ve had a very hard time writing a review for THE HATE U GIVE. It wasn't an easy read. Sobering, in fact--the kind of book that I wish I could give more than five stars. Because this is an important novel. One that is timely, powerful, and a hundred percent necessary. The reason that fiction exists, I'd even argue. The perspective is like no other and the writing resonates in a deeply moving way.  It punched me in the heart for all 464 pages. I've never been so grateful. I needed to have my eyes opened. 


The synopsis, from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.


As I've already said, I've gone through many versions of my review, and none of them articulated the impact THE HATE U GIVE had on me. It’s probably because I was rendered speechless as tears soaked my shirt and, to be honest, I haven’t quite recovered. Nor should I, frankly. 

But I want to keep spreading the word, so instead of spending another day (week? month?) staring at the screen, I’ve decided to just list words that describe THE HATE U GIVE.

Thanks to HCC Frenzy for this super cool button. 

Here we go. Words that describe THE HATE U GIVE:








Harry Potter awesomeness.



Required reading.




Filled with love.


Pulls no punches.

Not actually fiction.*

*Obviously, this is fiction, but also, it isn’t.

So in sum...

Must read.

Right now.

Do it.

Also, I'll read everything Angie Thomas ever writes, from now until forever.


For this mani, I used:

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mache 

OPI - You Don't Know Jacques, Big Apple Red, It's A Boy, and Matte Topcoat

China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Julep - Faye and Fiore

Glisten and Glow - HK Girl Topcoat

Black acrylic paint for letters

trimmed striping brush


book review with cover mani: burying the honeysuckle girls

Last Monday, we had a holiday for Family Day. I suppose that means you're supposed to spend time with your family but I spent it reading--an entire glorious day of flipping pages. Whoops? Haha! It's such a treat when I can read a book from cover to cover (err...screen to screen because it was an ebook?) and I picked a good one because once I finished the first chapter of BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS, I was all in.

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Althea Bell is still heartbroken by her mother’s tragic, premature death—and tormented by the last, frantic words she whispered into young Althea’s ear: Wait for her. For the honeysuckle girl. She’ll find you, I think, but if she doesn’t, you find her.

Adrift ever since, Althea is now fresh out of rehab and returning to her family home in Mobile, Alabama, determined to reconnect with her estranged, ailing father. While Althea doesn’t expect him, or her politically ambitious brother, to welcome her with open arms, she’s not prepared for the chilling revelation of a grim, long-buried family secret. Fragile and desperate, Althea escapes with an old flame to uncover the truth about her lineage. Drawn deeper into her ancestors’ lives, Althea begins to unearth their disturbing history…and the part she’s meant to play in it.

Gripping and visceral, this unforgettable debut delves straight into the heart of dark family secrets and into one woman’s emotional journey to save herself from a sinister inheritance.

Let's get one thing straight. This book was awesome.

Althea = awesome.

Plot = awesome.

Setting = awesome.

Your face = awesome. (Okay, this one isn't book related but sometimes you just need a reminder from others, about how awesome you are.)

On the very first page of BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS, Althea swears, and I remember thinking: Oh yeah. I'm going to like this gal. Then it took about four more chapters for my like to turn into love. BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS has many strong elements, but for me, it really came down to Althea. I'm all about a story of redemption and I'll cheer for the underdog. Being a recovering addict in a political family doesn't get much more underdog-ish but Althea rarely felt sorry for herself, which is one of the main reasons I dug her so hard. Props to Emily Carpenter because it's a serious challenge to write a confident yet vulnerable character and Althea walked that line like a badass acrobat. Also, she was kinda funny, in that wry way that made me want to be her best friend. 

Along with Althea, I loved the rich, lush scenery--scenery described in such detail that it took on a life of its own. At times, it felt downright magical. And then there was the actual magic, although I could never be sure how real it was. My curiosity added to the plot's tension, and whether real or not, I drank up the lingering questions of mystical influences like Jinn's Juice. The historical elements worked extraordinarily well, and they reminded me a lot of Kelley Armstrong (who is one of my favourite authors ever). There are decades' worth of family secrets in this book, going back three generations, which layered the gritty plot. So if you like your mysteries served with sides of ambiance, magical realism, and southern historical, you need to read BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS! 


For this mani, I used:

OPI - Alpine Snow, You Don't Know Jacques, Towel Me About It, and Stay Off The Lawn!

China Glaze - Intelligence Integrity & Courage and Def Defying

Julep - Francis, Payton, and Sam

piCture pOlish nail art brush no. 9