28.6.17

review and cover mani: the child

The summer thrillers of 2017 just keep coming, people! From creepy to intense, exhilarating and scary, there's one for everyone! Woot!! THE CHILD falls more on the intense side, although there's a healthy dose of creepiness, considering the subject matter. A slow burn, the plot didn't jump out of the gates, and instead, my fascination stemmed from the complex characters. I loved piecing together the mystery from several different points of view and in the end, I was on the edge of my seat. Yay for when that happens!

*releases doves to match cover (or perhaps pigeons because I'm not totally sure what they are)*



The description, from Goodreads:

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

___

The world of journalism has gotten a bad rap, as of late, and admittedly, most of the criticism is deserved. In today's day and age (says the reviewer, aging herself dramatically 😉) speed trumps thoroughness, and online publications inundate us with up-to-the-second information. I think that's why I gravitated towards Kate, THE CHILD's primary protagonist. She represented old-school journalism, acutely aware that she was part of a dying breed, but Kate refused to bend. So when she discovered a tiny article in the back of a newspaper, about a baby's skeleton being found on a construction site, Kate hit the pavement to investigate what happened.


Cover design by Anthony Ramondo and Emily Osborne
Cover photographs: (bird) Matan Efrati / Eyeem / Getty Images; (crane) hxdyl/Shutterstock.com


Along with an assigned junior journalist (a pretty amusing counterpart for Kate), Kate tracked down leads, hitting up the library for old articles, interviewing anyone she could find who had a connection to the area where the skeleton had been unearthed, and calling in favours to people in the know. As she moved closer to the truth, several other points of view emerged, each with a link to the body, although it was unclear how they fit together. The vagueness and uncertainty stretched while I got my bearings, but the female voices were so complex and layered, I got hooked pretty quickly. One character in particular was kind of a nightmare, which made her the most fascinating of all. Isn't that always the case? Haha!



It was a solid strategy, starting with a character-based approach and then adding a twisty plot, one that kicked into high gear in the second half of the book, zooming into space like a frickin' rocket of awesome. Because not only was I curious about the baby, but the bond each character had to it. I swear, folks, the last half of THE CHILD is bananas and will force you to make this face at least seven times:

http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/113178008917/me-this-new-macbook-air

And don't you want to make that face? Of course you do. It's why you read thrillers. 

The downside to having so many strong points of view was the occasional bout of head jumping. When I'm consumed in a book, I rarely read chapter headings, so it was kind of frustrating to have to stop and check whose head I was in. Each point of view added necessary information, creating a full picture, but it was jerky at times. Maybe if I hadn't been so desperate to see what happened next, that wouldn't have been such a problem. My bad? Haha!

So if you're into an immersive experience, one where you can see an event from every relevant point of view while trying to figure out how the clues fit together, THE CHILD is the book for you!


Thanks to Chapters Indigo and Berkley for a review copy!



___


For this mani, I used: 

FingerPaints - Paper Mâché, Inkblot Blue, and Black Expressionism

China Glaze - Boho Blues and I Sea The Point

OPI - Dating A Royal and matte topcoat

Essie - after school boy blazer

Mitty Brushes - Daisy 1.0 and Clean Flat Pro






23.6.17

review and cover mani: every last lie

I nearly lost my mind when I first heard of Mary Kubica's fourth novel, EVERY LAST LIE, for two reasons. One, because I've read her previous three thrillers and each one was better than the last, but two (and most importantly) because it had a cover I could paint (each preceding one had faces and I'm awful not so great at those). I begged for an ARC and my prayers were answered by the lovely folks at Harper Collins Canada, who tracked one down for me to devour. Which I did. Swiftly. And now I'm psyched to tell you all about it (without spoilers, obviously). 

*sounds awesome book gong*




 The back jacket, from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow's pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 
"The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us." 
Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 
Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 
Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.
___
Before I get into the nitty gritty of what I felt worked well in EVERY LAST LIE, I want to start with a blanket statement: Kubica's writing is bananas. I mean, it's always been great but there was some extra za za zu here. Her prose certainly has a literary edge and I had to look up a few words (always a humbling experience, haha), but there's a beat. A rhythm. A pulse. And that set the pace, grounding me in the story so I could submit to the experience of reading about Clara and Nick from page one, onward. 


Cover art by Sean Kapitain and Erin Craig.

The superb quality of writing made Clara's search for clues authentic, because Clara herself, felt authentic. She wasn't a detective or police officer, and had no previous experience with haphazard investigations, which meant that her discoveries didn't chart a steady course. So many clues were dismissed as quickly as they came, while others hit dead ends only to return later, more suspicious than ever. It was awesome. I felt like I was along with Clara for the ride, like I was actually the one sleuthing my way through the evidence. Well, except for the postpartum haze. And also the stress of having a parent with dementia. In addition to consoling a terrified toddler who keeps repeating spine-tingling phrases. Gah! So much craziness!

That set up, giving Clara conflict in every portion of her life even before Nick died, served as an excellent launching point for the plot. And combined with her grief and lack of sleeping, Clara went kinda cray-cray. But a sympathetic sort of cray, where Clara maintained awareness that she was losing touch with reality. The chaos of her situation--the stress, pressure, and panic--turned Clara's mind into a spinning a compass incapable of discerning the truth, and I couldn't get enough. (Does that make me sound mean? Haha!)




I did have a couple of moments where I was taken out of the story, and unfortunately, they were all in Nick's chapters. For me, Clara's strong voice and frantic energy overshadowed Nick's stiff POV, and it cut the tension. Maybe it was because his story had already happened, but his viewpoint felt like a lot of telling and not enough showing, which made it a challenge to connect.

That said, I still really liked EVERY LAST LIE. In fact, I'd argue that Kubica rules the genre of realistic domestic suspense. There's very little violence and instead, the character-based plot explored Clara's mind--the lenses through which she viewed the world. So if you're into suspecting your neighbours of burying a body, or wondering if the crossing guard who helps your kiddos has a penchant for identity theft, EVERY LAST LIE is the book for you! And you won't have to wait long because it comes out next Tuesday, June 27th! Woot!

Big thanks to Harper Collins Canada and Harlequin for a review copy!

___

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Towel Me About it, In My Back Pocket, and My Twin Mimmy

FingerPaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

ORLY - Makeup Or Breakup

Essie - Satin Sister

Mitty brushes - Daisy 1.0 and Clean Flat Pro, along with a triangular makeup sponge



14.6.17

canadian nail stencil giveaway!

Living in the country, it can be a challenge to get my paws on professional nail products, which is why I've been a long-time customer of Nail Polish Canada. Their selection of piCture pOlish, China Glaze, ORLY, and nail art tools is pretty incredible, and they host a few nail art comps throughout the year, which I always love to enter. 

And now, I'm an even bigger fan of the greatest Canadian nail polish website because they're giving away free nail stencils!! Yes, in honour of Canada's 150th year of being awesome, Nail Polish Canada is helping fellow Canucks celebrate by having festive, maple leaf nails. They aren't just any old stencils, though. Nope, they're from the company I trust the most when it comes to nail vinyls. Obviously, I'm talking about What's Up Nails.




Today, June 14th, bloggers across the country are posting codes and the first 10 people to use each blogger's specific code will snag themselves a sheet of 20 Canadian flag stencils. Each set has two different sizes of leaves, which can be used in two ways. I did a couple of manis so you can see what I mean. 

First, for those who may not have an extensive polish collection, or are nervous about using a stencil, you can use the centre sticker. Just place it on your nail, add a topcoat, and you're good to go! The vinyls are much thinner than traditional stickers, so you won't be left with a hard edge that can peel.


White base is Fingerpaints Paper Mâché. Loose, red hex glitter is from Amazon.


The second option is to use the stencils themselves, with the polish colour of your choice. What's Up Nails stencils bleed the least, but even so, it's important to remove the stencil as quickly as possible to achieve a crisp outline. Wait until the polish is totally dry and then add a topcoat to smooth out the surface.


White base is Fingerpaints Paper Mâché, Red is China Glaze Peppermint To Be, and the glitter is China Glaze Ugly Sweater Party.


Either way you use them, they're super easy. Just make sure your base coats are dry first, so you can shift the sticker and/or stencil around until they're in the perfect place. Insider tip: I always use a quick dry topcoat for my base colour, to speed up the process. 😊

So if you'd like to rock some festive nails for July 1st, click this link and then enter my code, X54J2TC5I2H: http://www.nailpolishcanada.com/products/free-canadian-flag-nail-vinyls-1-sheet-20-stencils-by-whats-up-nails.html 

This deal even includes shipping so what the heck are you waiting for?

Thanks so much to Nail Polish Canada for hosting such a fun giveaway!!



12.6.17

blog tour: saints and misfits



A couple of months ago, Simon & Schuster Canada hosted a preview event, where bloggers learned about upcoming YA and MG releases. That fateful Saturday afternoon, I heard S.K. Ali speak about her debut novel, SAINTS AND MISFITS. Her eloquence and enthusiastic personality elevated the room's vibe immediately, and then she revealed her stunning cover, which morphed me into a heart-eyed emoji.

*sounds awesome book horn*




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

____

SAINTS AND MISFITS stole my heart. Or rather, Janna did. And what I liked most about her was that she acted like a typical teenager, with the added bonus of being Muslim and wearing a hijab. She's quick witted, kind, hard working, and loves halal gummy bears. Candy: the unifying snack. Haha! Her life mostly consisted of staying on top of her enriched math schoolwork and participating in mosque events, but Janna also navigated her awareness of how her physical appearance affected others--how she was judged. Holding her faith dear while grappling with self-consciousness was a complicated issue for Janna to reconcile, and it became more of a challenge as the novel progressed.


Jacket design by Chloë Foglia
Jacket photography copyright © 2017 by Samia El-Hassani


Each chapter was titled either Saints, Misfits, or Monster, either singularly or in combinations, and it helped set the tone. The categorization method belonged to Janna and she easily identified who fell into which category, although they weren't necessarily cemented. Well, except the monster. 

That brings me to the core of SAINTS AND MISFITS. I've struggled on whether or not to share the monster storyline, because I really try to make sure I don't include spoilers. In fact, I've drafted this part of my review several times, changing my mind and then changing it again. Ultimately, I've decided to leave it a mystery, but I will say this: SAINTS AND MISFITS is important. Like, in the realm of THE HATE U GIVE important. Teenagers deal with a lot of crap; adult issues they should never have to face (nor should anyone, for that matter) and watching a character reclaim their power--stand up to those who want to crush them, even when they're scared--is a necessary and timely message. Janna's ability to persevere, be thoughtful and logical but also trust her gut, moved me. A transformation took place, one that didn't feel contrived or forced. Instead, her journey had highs and lows, just like life. And the most important part? Janna never surrendered. She processed her experiences in her own time, and sought out a resolution that worked for her, despite what others thought she should do. This is the sort of novel that needs to be in every high school library, and part of mandatory curriculum for English/literary classes. So...uh...make it happen, school boards. Make it happen now!




So in sum, SAINTS AND MISFITS has a super cool protagonist who struggles with teenage drama (crushes! EEE CRUSHES!), and also with something much more significant. Janna's a smart, grounded, endearing character who may not know who she is, but knows she's more than what others see. And the message woven into the entertaining writing is strong and fierce. I'm honoured to kick off the SAINTS AND MISFITS blog tour because this is a novel that everybody has to read. Period.

SAINTS AND MISFITS comes out tomorrow, so make sure you pick up a copy! And thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a review copy!


_
__

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Towel Me About It, Let's Be Friends, Mod About You, and matte topcoat

China Glaze - Intelligence, Integrity & Courage

Fingerpaints - Paper Mache, Black Expressionism, and Sketch Me

ORLY - Road Trippin

Mitty brushes - Minty 0 and Clean Pro Flat



9.6.17

review and cover mani: erotic stories for punjabi widows

June is shaping up to be an excellent month for phenomenal books, and the latest addition to that stack is EROTIC STORIES OF PUNJABI WIDOWS. The description of Sikh widows writing erotica was too enticing to resist, but this book was so much more than erotic stories. It's a novel with a dark side, one that exposes the way women are viewed in a small Sikh society in London, and in India. But don't let that scare you, because as dark as it gets, there's even more light. 



The back jacket description, from Goodreads:

A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.

Every woman has a secret life . . .

Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.


___

On the first page, Balli Kaur Jaswal's thoughtful prose made it clear that she is a storyteller--a writer who wants to weave a tale. I imagine she agonized over every word, every turn of phrase, every image, because they were damn near perfect. Her dedication (and heaps of talent, obvi) made for a strong start and I effortlessly fell into the rhythm.

Eeee! I frickin' love when that happens!


Cover by Holly MacDonald


I also love when characters behave unexpectedly, and the widows in Nikki's writing class certainly qualified. I mean, they're the community's elders, and chose to spend their English classes sharing stories about cucumbers, garden hoses, pulsing knots, throaty moans, and clay sticks. The contradiction between my previously-conceived notions of how a Punjabi widow would behave and what the characters actually said was remarkable and entertaining. Also hot. Very hot, in some instances. I swear, I'll never look at a gaggle of older women the same way again. Especially if they're Punjabi. 😉 




But that's not the only storyline. Within the humorous, uplifting moments where women embraced their sexuality, EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS addressed serious topics. The description alludes to a scandal but it's more significant than that. Obviously, I can't talk about the "scandal" in detail without including spoilers and I'm kind of frustrated because it's where the book really shined. And I'm not just talking about Nikki, although she was involved. In fact, the greatest journey belonged to the second narrator, and it was equal parts moving and enraging. That blend of light and dark is why I'll be recommending this book for a long time to come, because there's an unflinching honesty here. One that needs to be acknowledged. Also there is erotica. So you know, it covers a lot of bases. Haha! If you're in the mood for an entirely unique, charming, and diverse read, EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS is the book for you!

EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIVES comes out on June 13th, so set your calendars! And big thanks to Harper Collins Canada for a review copy!




___

For this mani, I used:

OPI - My Twin Mimmy, Alpine Snow, and matte topcoat

Julep - Octavia

China Glaze - I Got A Blue Attitude, Under The Boardwalk, Trip of a Lime Time

ORLY - Wild Wisteria and Paradise Cove

Mitty brushes - Daisy 1.0, Minty 0, and Clean Pro Flat





1.6.17

review and cover mani: the weight of lies

Last month, Emily Carpenter reached out to me, asking if I'd like an ARC of her sophomore novel: THE WEIGHT OF LIES. Earlier this year, I read Carpenter's debut and loved it, so this was my reaction:


http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/post/75202587899/the-best-gif-ever


I started reading on Saturday night, snuck in chapters throughout Sunday (when we had company) and then stayed up until midnight in order to finish. Because I burned through this bananapants mystery within 24-hours, it should come as no surprise that THE WEIGHT OF LIES gets my must-read recommendation, and I'm super psyched to use the rest of this post to convince you of its awesomeness.




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.
 

___

Oh em gee, folks, there are so many things I loved about THE WEIGHT OF LIES that it's a challenge to figure out where to start. The dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship? Bonny Island's creeptastic vibes? Meg's ability to be a sad-sack and also fearless? The murder that may or may not have happened? How do I choose?!


Cover design by Rex Bonomelli.

Okay. Let's start with Meg, because she's the protagonist and first-person narrator. I didn't instantly like her, mostly because in the first chapter, Meg's sitting by the side of a swanky hotel pool in Las Vegas, feeling sorry for herself. She lives off a trust fund, has friends named Aurora and "the Glitter Girls," and receives a hand-delivered birthday party invitation from her mother. Like, come on. Hand delivered?! *eye roll* But Meg's reaction to that invitation is what changed my initial opinion. Her outer layer shed, revealing her vulnerable core. Just like that, she let me in. She put up walls to protect herself from others, but not from me, the reader. So from the third chapter forward, I was Meg's fiercest cheerleader. 

The setting was probably my second favourite element of THE WEIGHT OF LIES. Carpenter s-l-a-y-e-d the unsettling and mysterious Bonny Island, and like in BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS, the atmosphere was crucial to the plot. When an author can create a threatening environment--a force that demands respect--it automatically adds tension. Running in fear is one thing, but running in fear through hostile and unstable terrain, where danger lurks in every tree and meadow, it's down-right terrifying. And holy hotcakes, is Bonny Island a nightmare. 



Then there's the dysfunctional relationship. THE DYSFUNCTION I CANNOT. Meg and Frances were like opposing magnets. Any attempts to bring them together were strained and explosive. And it only got worse as the novel progressed. The plot itself had a killer pace (haha, had to do it) and doesn't unfold in a linear fashion, which made it extra awesome. Also awesome? There were excerpts of Frances' horror novel at the beginning of each chapter, syncing the fictional novel with the real one. So it's firing on all levels, folks. ALL. LEVELS. Oh, and have I mentioned there's some super cute male eye candy? Because there is. And he was delicious. 

If you love mysteries that feature volatile characters, cold cases, and gripping plots, you need to read THE WEIGHT OF LIES. And then BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS. Because there's a new heavyweight in atmospheric mysteries, and her name is Emily Carpenter.  

THE WEIGHT OF LIES comes out next Tuesday, June 6th. Mark your calendars, people!!

ps. Emily, you're forgiven. 😉



__

For this mani, I used:

OPI - Alpine Snow, In My Back Pocket, Chicago Champagne Toast, My Twin Mommy, You Don't Know Jacques, Towel Me About It, and matte topcoat

Fingerpaints - Black Expressionism and Sketch Me

Julep - Fiore, Lizzy, and Roc Solid

China Glaze - Rainbow and Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Mitty Brushes - Minty 0 and Clean Pro Flat