30.11.17

review and cover mani: this darkness mine

You know when you finish a book and then question your whole life? Because you can’t quite believe what happened so your brain is left whirling like the rainbow beach ball of death on a mac, forever spinning due to WTF overload? Well let me introduce you to THIS DARKNESS MINE, by Mindy McGinnis. Haha!

(Warning, I’m fired up in this review, folks, which means that f-bombs are a-droppin'.)




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.

Edgar Award–winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a dark and gripping psychological thriller about a girl at war with herself, and what it really means to be good or bad.
 

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I’ve made it a mission to read all of Mindy McGinnis’ books because of my intense love for THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES. I just adore how McGinnis writes without censorship in a blunt, sharp, and still compassionate way. Some truths are harder to tell than others and I’m all for hearing them without the usual sorts of filters. Especially when they’re told by dynamic characters within a stone-cold twisted plot.


Jacket photograph by Greta Tuckute. 
Jacket design by Erin Fitzsimmons.


While this book isn’t a traditional YA contemporary where we follow a protagonist as she learns about herself and the sort of person she wants to be, it kind of is. Or maybe not? I’m still not entirely sure, but that’s a good thing. Haha! Sasha is a very prickly character and from other reviews I’ve read, there’s been mention of her unlikability—that Sasha isn’t a character who’s sympathetic. And you know what? Those reviews are right, but instead of complaining, I’m rejoicing!

It’s about time we get unlikable female characters, isn’t it? Where’s the fun in reading the same thing over and over again? I, for one, am tired of female characters who only fall to the dark side because (a) they didn’t mean to or (b) were pressured into it but it’s okay because deep inside they didn’t really want to. This may come as a shock, but girls/women are just as capable of doing bad things and I love reading about unapologetic characters that give zero fucks. In fact, I’m fascinated by them and in the case of Sasha Stone, I’d follow her anywhere. Because her struggle to become who she is means she has to face the idea of embracing every part of herself, no matter how dark those parts may be (whether they're from the twin she absorbed or not--I'll never tell!). 




From the first page, Sasha commanded my full and unadulterated attention. Think Amy from GONE GIRL but for real (because it seems like every book is compared to GG when most are nothing like it at all). That intense fierceness is another example of McGinnis’ talent to tell the truth—the ugly side that other authors either choose to ignore or don’t have the skill to get right. This is the sort of fiction that makes me want to be a better writer. So yeah, THIS DARKNESS MINE may not be for everyone but it should be because it's fresh as hell.

And then the end happened omg the end. That’s all I can say about that.

If you love unpredictable, almost feral characters whose path to self-awareness is anything but conventional, then you need to read THIS DARKNESS MINE!



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For this mani, I used:

OPI – Samoan Sand, Bubble Bath, Deluce de Leche, Strawberry Margarita, You Are So Outta Lime and matte topcoat

China Glaze – My Way or the Highway

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

Mitty Burns – Daisy 1.0, Minty 0, Candy 00, and Pro Clean Angular brushes


24.11.17

review and cover mani: the last namsara

If you’re a writer, you’re probably aware of the idea that you should chase your MC up a tree…and then throw rocks at them for approximately three hundred pages. THE LAST NAMSARA is a perfect example of how to do that, because nothing was easy for Asha. Nope. I’d even propose that Ciccarelli enjoyed throwing rocks at her poor heroine, as they came from every possible direction: rocks from family, sense of self, destiny, and romance. And the culmination of those rocks—boulders, actually—made for a heart-jammering, gasp-inducing, book-dropping good time.


 *Surprise! The final version of THE LAST NAMSARA has a different cover than the ARC, which you'll see down below.

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The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

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I’m always drawn to YA fantasy because the action gets going fairly quickly. THE LAST NAMSARA absolutely slayed in that regard (😆) but even better, the action never stopped. The moment one problem was solved, two more appeared—a Hydra of escalating bombshells, if you will. At one point, I thought I needed to get my asthma inhaler because the intensity squeezed my throat to the point I worried about passing out. And in the middle of it all stood Asha, the legendary dragon slayer and newly-appointed Iskari.


Jacket art based on an original jacket design by DAS ILLUSTRAT, Munich, Germany. 
Photograph of female lips by Ervin Usman. Jacket design by Michelle Taormina.


Asha’s determination and unrelenting nature endeared herself to me immediately, and her arc was fascinating to watch. Asha was pushed to her limit in THE LAST NAMSARA, and the pushing didn’t stop even when she teetered on the edge of an abyss. A metaphorical abyss of course, because I’d never include a real spoiler. Haha! Asha never backed down from a challenge and instead, looked it dead in the eye and cocked two fingers forward, daring whatever obstacle lay in her path to strike first. Think Katniss but more badass and tortured (yes, that’s actually possible).

Also, there are dragons. Did I mention that? DRAGONS, PEOPLE. And while I don’t often find dragons in my reading adventures, I’m kind of wondering why that’s the case because dragons are freaking awesome. Tied in with the dragons, the world building itself proved to be exquisite, lush, and fairly straight-forward for its magnitude—a plus for me because I can get lost. 




Most importantly, I want to note that Kristen Ciccarelli is Canadian and grew up on her grandfather’s grape farm so I’m unsure how this novel could possibly get any better. Buy it now, people! I did, even though I already had an advanced copy, but as you know the cover changed for publication and I needed this beauty to adorn my bookshelf. So for real, if the fact that I now have two copies of this novel because my love required it doesn’t convince you to dive into THE LAST NAMSARA, I don’t know what will. OMG get to your bookstores, friends! And considering it's Black Friday, you can probably find a sweet deal. Get going!


Enormous thanks to HCC Frenzy and HarperCollins Canada for giving me an ARC!





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For this mani, I used:

OPI – My Silk Tie and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Chroma Cool, Intelligence Integity & Courage, Counting Carats, and The Outer Edge

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

Julep – Mona


Mitty Burns – Daisy 1.0, Peachy 000, and Clean Pro Flat nail art brushes





17.11.17

review and cover mani: wicked like a wildfire

The cover for WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE caught my attention because…well…its beauty basically rendered me speechless. With the dark purple base, eclectic flowers and design, I was anxious to read it while having no idea what it was about. I just knew I needed the book. So imagine my delighted surprise when I read the back jacket and discovered the intriguing nature of WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE, dense with unusual magic, family secrets, and an ominous curse—a trifecta of YA awesomeness, if you will. But let me tell you, that’s just the tip of the awesomeness iceberg, so let’s get started with the review!



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love. 

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

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Now that I’ve finished WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE, the back jacket description seems quite sparse and as a reader that should make you psyched for life because it means there’s a ton to discover. Without spoiling surprises, this book is set in a place that I didn’t know much about and I frickin’ loved how the vivid descriptions made me feel like I was looking out the window while Iris wove her way to the top of a mountain, or steps behind her as she raced through winding streets on her way to work. Authors with the ability to completely transport me are always on my must-read list and Popović is now a member of that club in a major way. 


Jacket art © 2017 by Lisa Perrin
Jacket design by Heather Daugherty


The first part of the book set the stage with character introductions and the status quo for Iris, Malina, and their mother. The pace was steady but on the slower-burn side, until their mothers’ attack and then it became a slingshot. Or a rocket. But a windy slingshot or rocket because roughly seven thousand things happened that left me all:

 kenan thompson wow GIF


Nothing was as it seemed in WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE and betrayal lurked around every corner. Just when I thought I knew the next turn, everything was flipped upside and I loved every frickin’ second.




Another strength was the magic itself, the manipulation of beauty. Original and fantastical, the gleams were unlike any other magic I’ve read about. They were fascinating and a true testament to the power of imagination. So combined with dynamic characters and a darkly bewitching plot, WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE stands apart from other novels in the genre and omg I can’t wait for the next one. 

Plus there’s this magnificent cover, which I can’t help circling back to because HOLY THIS COVER. I’m totally incapable of not talking about it. Haha! But for real, this is a must read for YA fantasy fans, so add it to your TBRs, friends!

Huge thanks to HCC Frenzy and HarperCollins Canada for hooking me up with this incredible finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

OPI – You Don’t Know Jacques, Can’t Find My Czechbook, You Are So Outta Lime, In My Back Pocket, Red My Fortune Cookie, A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find, Dating A Royal, Do You Lilac It, My Silk Tie, and matte topcoat

ORLY – Plum Sugar

Julep – Mona

China Glaze – Trip of a Lime Time and Intelligence Integrity & Courage

Mitty Burns – Candy 00 and Clean Pro Flat nail art brush


9.11.17

review and cover mani: the female of the species

Dearest booknerds,

I’m going to get screamy in this review, so you should be thankful I’m not a vlogger or I’d blow out your speakers in a major way because OMG THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES. Trust me when I say that you have an immediate purchase* in your future, somewhere between right now and when you finish reading this review.

*or library reserve, YAY LIBRARIES!


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives. 

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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While the cover of THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is all: Oh I’m bright yellow and happy, don’t let it fool you. This isn’t a happy sort of book. It deals with cruelty of all sorts. Awful, horrendous cruelty that may be too much for people because it stays with you, wiggles into the corners of your mind and refuses to leave. But that said, it’s also wondrous. Powerful and astute, McGinnis pulls no punches. Instead, she adds kicks. Kicks that forced me to take breaks because they hit hard, followed by uppercuts of empowerment and jabs of frustrated rage, both of which brought me to tears more than once.


Cover art by Tracy Turnbull.
Cover design by Erin Fitzsimmons.


Did I mention I was reading THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES while on a plane? Where anyone could see me trying to hide my face behind a book with a friendly-appearing cover? Not even the risk of public side-eyes could stop me from reading, folks, which doesn’t happen often.




As for Alex, the dangerous teen who stole my heart, I’m not sure I can convey how beautifully complicated and kind of effed up she was, without including spoilers. An admitted killer, there was so much more to her character, pops of light in the dark. But even her darkness itself had light because she accepted those parts of herself. Pragmatic and controlled, Alex led a life that accounted for her predispositions and she wasn’t prepared for the changes Jack and Peekay brought to her life. But we don’t always know what we need, as Alex quickly discovered. Her journey kept me on the edge of my seat and by the end, I was dehydrated from all the silent crying. (ALSO OMG THE END.)




So if you’re into darker stories that will leave you wrecked in the best way, you need to get yourself to a bookstore as quickly as humanly possible. Also pick up tissue. Seriously.



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For this mani, I used:

ORLY – Road Trippin’

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – Dating A Royal, Tiramisu for Two, Malaga Wine

China Glaze – Intelligence, Integrity & Courage

Mitty Burns – Candy 00 and Clean Pro Flat brushes