15.11.18

review and cover mani: empire of sand

 


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

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Turn down the volume on your speakers, friends, because I’m about to get S-C-R-E-A-M-Y. 

This book. THIS BOOK I CANNOT. 

Because Mehr! Oh Mehr. I loved her so much. SO VERY MUCH.

Let me break it down for you in legitimate sentences and not just a series of non-specific, enthusiastic exclamations.

Cover design by Lauren Panepinto

A strong character in quieter sense, meaning nonviolent, Mehr would give Marcella Morgan herself a run for her money. Jk they’d probably be best friends. But my point stands. Mehr’s toughness didn’t come from turning men to dust, or stabbing a sword into her enemy’s heart. Rather, it was her internal resolve. Not even Mehr’s privileged upbringing could stop her from being treated like an outsider. Kept separate from her sister and constantly told she was less-than, Mehr had to look within for acceptance. No matter what others said, no matter which whispered insult passed her by, Mehr stayed true to her beliefs. Her history. Her blood. Even when she was forced into impossible situations where it would have been easier to bend, there were moments she chose punishment over remaining silent—a next-level type of courage and yet, only a taste of Mehr’s strength. Astounding and admirable, to say the least.

I would like to briefly note that my esteem towards Mehr also extended to another character who isn’t mentioned in the description, so I won’t talk about them aside from saying I LOVE THAT CHARACTER SO MUCH MY HEART HURTS. I insist that you DM me when you read EMPIRE OF SAND so we can gush about this character who I can’t talk about, but also need to talk about, so let’s move on before I crack under the fangirl pressure.




Now that I’ve addressed the dynamic awesomeness of Mehr and Unnamed Character, it’s time for me to straight-up grab you by your beautiful cheeks and bring you close so I can whisper, “You have no idea how incredible Tasha Suri’s writing is,” in the least creepy way possible. And then follow-up by grabbing the lapels of your jacket (because it’s snowy here) and shake you a few times because FOR REAL THIS WRITING. An elegant delivery with a perfect amount of bite, EMPIRE OF SAND had the sort of voice that made the world fade away. Suri’s masterful ability to describe physical movement was among the strongest I’ve ever read, which I appreciated infinitely because dance played a key role in Mehr’s life, and it's often a challenge for me to imagine scenes of that nature. But not here. In this book, I could feel the movement in my limbs, and it was glorious.

So look, I know there are a lot of awesome fantasies out there, including a fair amount of debuts, and you may be thinking that you don’t have room for another. To this, I say “we both know that's not actually true because there's always room for more.” If you love fantasy, you NEED to read EMPIRE OF SAND. Like, it’s not optional. You’d be doing your brain and heart a disservice to not immerse yourself in this unbelievable tale of love, sacrifice, and determination. And I haven’t even mentioned the diversity and Indian setting, the intricate descriptions of lavish furnishings and clothing. Or the powerful way Suri incorporated feminism, spirituality, and faith. In short, I am completely obsessed with EMPIRE OF SAND and have full confidence that you will be too. Five stars plus a billion stars, for a total of one billion and five stars.

Big thanks to Orbit Books for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find, Big Apple Red, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, and Rollin’ In Cashmere

China Glaze – Chroma Cool, Wicked Liquid, and Slay Bells Ring

ORLY – Storyteller (custom shade)

So Nailicious – needle brush

Glisten and Glow - topcoat




9.11.18

review and cover mani: beasts of extraordinary circumstance


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

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BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump, only with the addition of magic and fewer trips to the White House. I’ll admit that landed this book the heartwarming side, not my usual cup of tea, but I’d heard great things and wanted to give it a try. Also, I’m a sucker for magic anything, so off I went. 

Along with the magical aspect, Weylyn’s uniqueness included the effect he had on others, which explained the story’s somewhat unconventional narration from characters around Weylyn, instead of through Weylyn’s POV. That decision, for me, proved to be the standout of BEASTS. Had the narrative come from Weylyn himself, I wouldn’t have been able to connect to him. Because for real, nobody has that pure of a soul. But instead of rolling my eyes and putting BEASTS down in lieu of something more murder-y, keeping the narration from those who knew him allowed me to become strongly attached to Weylyn. A little too strongly, actually. 


Jacket design by Ervin Serrano
Jacket photography of tree ©️Brian W. Downs/Offset.com

At some point in the first twenty percent or so, although I truly can’t identify the precise moment, I noticed a terrible sensation in the middle of my chest. A constriction of sorts, followed by an increase in my pulse, and it took me a second to realize that it was paralyzing worry. The melancholy vibe in BEASTS told me that Weylyn had a world of hurt in his future where he’d be let down, his truest wish of belonging never fully manifesting, and I wasn’t sure I could continue. Give me a crime thriller any day over a sweet and sad story about a perpetually misunderstood boy who longs for love and acceptance because DEAR GOD WHY ARE PEOPLE THE WORST? WHEN WILL HE FINALLY GET WHAT HE NEEDS? WHY AM I FEELING ALL OF THESE FEELINGS?!  I AM NOT EQUIPPED FOR THESE FEELINGS AHHHHHHHHH!




I honestly haven’t experienced that level of vulnerability while reading a novel, and waiting for each shoe to drop, whether it be somebody hurting Weylyn’s feelings, rejecting him, or being a straight up bully, meant that even when Weylyn was doing fine, I never stopped bracing myself for the next fall. Luckily (or strategically? *tips hat at Lang*) my extreme protectiveness of Weylyn was reflected in the characters who delivered each chapter, characters who saw Weylyn’s innocent nature for what it was and helped him as best they could. And, you know, the magical sweetness of fireflies making phosphorescent honey, storms vanishing in an instant, and other delightful unexplainable oddities didn’t hurt either. Plus, the writing’s lyrical quality included the sort of whimsical and detailed background stories found in fables, which elevated the overall story. 

A solid four stars from me, BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE is a fabulous choice if you’re in the mood for a quieter, more reflective sort of novel with magical quirks, and there’s also Merlin the horned pig, so this book really hit a lot of notes. 


Big thanks to St. Martin’s Press for a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

Essie - after school boy blazer

China Glaze – Boujee Board, Emerald Bae, Foie Gras, and Street Style Princess

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

ORLY – Skinny Dip

Julep – Sam

Glisten and Glow - Mother Terra

So Nailicious – needle brush





31.10.18

review and cover mani: vengeful




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab's first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there's Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn't know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

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Victoria Schwab makes my life better with her writing. Every time I pick up one of her books, whoever happens to be in my immediate vicinity is treated to my freak-outs of love via happy sighs and whispered sequences of "yessssss." Strong voices, innate conflict that builds and builds, and a healthy dollop of magic or supernatural powers are all a given in Schwab’s work, and my black heart swells whenever I glance at the special reserved shelf to the left of my writing desk, because omg the awesomeness!! And while I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to choose a favourite Schwab novel, VENGEFUL is definitely in the running. Mostly due to a new character named Marcella, who has become my new patronus. 

Now, because VENGEFUL is a sequel to VICIOUS, this is a tricky review to write without spoilers, and the very last thing I want to do is spoil even one moment of this bananapants series. That said, I couldn’t *not* paint a cover mani. It’s how I display my love for a book and when it comes to VENGEFUL, I wanted to paint my entire body. 


Design by Julia Lloyd, Illumicrate exclusive


Schwab tapped directly into my core and brought forth a storyline that personified 2018’s toxicity, only instead of reinforcing my feelings of powerlessness, I felt unstoppable. Through Marcella, I was able to experience justice in the most badass of ways. Sometimes, I like to tell myself when “they go low, I go high” but that’s not my natural state. On the D&D spectrum, I score as a solid Chaotic Good and was therefore living for Marcella’s way in making things right. In taking what she wanted without giving a single fuck. In using her power for revenge. Ruthless ambition from a woman never granted respect—who was overlooked and dismissed for most of her adult life—spoke to my very soul.



Yes, Eli and Victor were still in attendance, their relationship even more toxic than in VICIOUS, and I thoroughly enjoyed their wide character arcs. But for me, this was a book about women rising to power. Unapologetic and fierce, the female characters in VENGEFUL took what they wanted, and reading about them left me charged up and empowered, itching to cock two fingers and say, “come at me, bro.” Without a doubt, VENGEFUL is my favourite book of the year, and gets infinity stars along with my must-read recommendation. So if you’re in the mood for characters who are over the status quo, do what they want, and risk everything for revenge, then you need to read VICIOUS and VENGEFUL. Like, right now. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of money on merch and multiple copies, because I want to be as close to this story as possible.  




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For this mani, I used:

OPI – A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Chroma Cool

FingerPaints – Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

So Nailicious – needle brush



24.10.18

review and cover mani: broken things



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. 

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it. 

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

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I’ve recently started flagging books in order to easily find my favourite lines, and while reading BROKEN THINGS in a waiting room (because that’s been my primary activity, as of late) a person chuckled to themselves while staring at my dense rows of colour-coded stickers. But random stranger judgment didn’t deter me one bit from placing three independent flags on the same page, because the writing in this book was bananas and I wanted to remember it all.  In fact, the writing was so good, it bordered on distracting. I’m seriously not kidding. From character descriptions to dialogue, setting and scenery, and simple turns of phrase, I’d read the same sentence over and over again, soaking up the awesomeness before moving on. 


Jacket art by plainpicture/Minden Pictures/Yva Momatiuk & John Eastcott and Shutterstock
Jacket design by Kerri Resnick and Erin Fitzsimmons


While my brain grinned like the Cheshire Cat as it basked in the magnificent composition, it was also thoroughly intrigued by Mia and Brynn’s quest to discover what happened to Summer. Through alternating chapters in the past and present, the story unfolded bit by bit. Being branded monsters for a crime they didn’t commit irrevocably changed the course of Mia and Brynn’s lives, and neither girl emerged unscathed. The hope of discovering who killed Summer had two facets: justice for Summer and absolution for the girls, so the next phase of their lives could actually begin. But in order to achieve that goal, Mia and Brynn had to address the perils of friendship with Summer. With the advantage of time and distance (five years) since Summer’s murder, they were able to gain a new perspective when looking into the past. Unfortunately, the absence of rose-tinted glasses revealed a bang-on depiction of young female friendships—how confusing and toxic they can be—which became a real standout in the story. The gaslighting, exclusion, and passive-aggressive ways the girls treated each other could be brutal, but somehow, the negative aspects only increased their dependence on each other. Oooooh yeah, it was a tangled web of hot and cold, and each girl was a willing participant, waiting for the spider’s next move. (Been there, and it was a major bummer.) 



Snippets from The Way into Lovelorn gave me a taste of which parts resonated with the trio, and I loved the extra dimension. Understanding the tale's appeal and why the girls wanted to lose themselves in the fantasy fleshed out their characters even more, and I felt very connected to them. I can remember being so obsessed with fiction that elements spilled over into real life, and to be totally honest, it still happens (yay! Except for when they’re scary elements and then I regret all of my choices).

Mia and Brynn’s attempts to separate fact from fiction took some time, and with the help of a few friends—their only friends—they followed a meager collection of clues and chased down theories with intensity and focus, while simultaneously juggling serious issues in their personal lives. The significant balancing act kept the pace tight, with ample opportunity for secrets and reveals. A perfect choice for this creepier time of year, if you’re a fan of independent characters with relatable flaws a’plenty, attitude backed up by quick wit, and writing that makes you involuntarily release a sigh of admiration and delight, then BROKEN THINGS is the book for you! That said, there are scenes of animal abuse, so approach with caution if that affects you. 


Big thanks to HCC Frenzy for an ARC!





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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints - Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – In My Back Pocket, Dating A Royal, and matte topcoat

So Nailicious – needle brush





18.10.18

review and cover mani: game of secrets



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Felicity Cole sells flowers in the streets of Victorian London to feed herself and her young brother. But she has a close-guarded secret--her brother is a Tainted, born with special abilities that society fears and a shadowy organization called the Hunstsman scours the country to eliminate. When Felicity becomes the target of one of these individuals, she discovers something horrible: she's Tainted, too.

Rescued by a mysterious gentleman on the eve of execution, she's whisked away to a school funded by Queen Victoria, established to train selected Tainted into assassins in service of the crown.

Struggling to harness her incredible strength, speed, and agility, and despised by her classmates, all she wants is to use her new position to find a cure so she can be normal and reunited with her brother.

But with the Golden Jubilee fast approaching and the discovery that there's a traitor in their midst, she has no choice but to embrace the one thing she's been fighting all along. 

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A blend of X-Men and The Kingsmen, GAME OF SECRETS swept me into the past. The historical elements of selling flowers in a Victorian market, the sights and sounds of streets in a more impoverished part of the city, immediately set the scene. The strong descriptions carried through to the school funded by Queen Victoria, with lush velvet drapery, exquisite gowns, and an abundance of forks at an elegant dining table. Felicity's dramatic shift in circumstance, along with the sudden appearance of Tainted abilities, played equal parts in reinforcing her sense of being on the outside. She kept her guard up at all times, which eventually became more of a hindrance than a help, both in regards to learning to control her powers, and navigating the intricacies of society life.


Jacket design by Sammy Yuen

One of the elements that verged on trope-ish was Felicity’s ability to make terrible decisions. Like, if bad decisions were a graduate course, Felicity would’ve earned her doctorate. That can irritate some readers, but I thought it rang true to Felicity’s personality. Having lived hand-to-mouth for so long, she had exactly zero experience in being a member of a team. She’d been her brother’s primary caregiver for a long time, so expecting her to suddenly give over control of her life (and decision making process) to a complete stranger—that she’d suddenly rely on people she just met—wouldn’t have rung true. Instead, Felicity’s narrow focus on finding a cure and reuniting with her brother felt authentic, and I was highly invested in her learning she could, in fact, trust others. That she wasn’t in it alone. For me, Felicity's journey from complete self-reliance to asking for back-up served as a core arc to the story. 




I would’ve liked for the Tainted world-building to be stronger, with more history and explanation of the Tainted community, and it certainly felt like the beginning of a series instead of a stand-alone. The latter half, and last hundred pages in particular, took the moderate pace and cranked it up to 11, with twists and fight scenes and betrayals, which is more of what I’d expected from the description. GAME OF SECRETS reads on the younger side of YA, with some violence but nothing too gory, romance that stops at kissing, and no swearing, so if you have kiddos who love fantasy and characters with supernatural powers, this would be a solid choice to get them hooked on the genre. (Because, you know, I'm all about fostering children's addictions to books. 🤓)

Big thanks to Thomas Allen & Son for a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism, Inkblot Blue, and Paper Mâché

China Glaze – Haute & Heavy, Chroma Cool, and Street Style Princess

OPI – In My Back Pocket, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Rollin' In Cashmere, and I Just Can't Cope-Cabana

ORLY - Scandal

Glisten and Glow – Mother Terra, Mother Fauna, and topcoat

So Nailicious – needle brush


15.10.18

review and cover mani: sanctuary

SANCTUARY stayed in my TBR for far too long. I mean, teens with superpowers, in a prison…in space?! Hello up my alley, much? And with Halloween around the corner, it fit in well with my desire for supernatural reads with a healthy side of mayhem. Because one can never have enough mayhem, right?



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company—and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners.

At first, she’s confident her commanding officer—who also happens to be her mother—will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive—all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

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SANCTUARY was one of those marvelous, totally immersive reading experiences. The on-point world building had me sliding right into the story, and it wasn’t long before I was holding on for the ride. A riveting plot, every possible area for tension was taken full advantage. I cannot stress just how much happened in SANCTUARY, and the added alien element upped the stakes to such a degree, I gasped aloud while waiting in my local Honda car service area. Because as if the teen prisoner breakout/Lexie’s hostage situation weren’t enough, the unpredictable alien madness took the already-swift pace and strapped it to a rocket ship.


Cover design by Sarah Cresch


Like, I’d be white-knuckling pages as the prisoners forced Lexie to reveal security codes when—ALIEN SURPRISE AHHH—turned everything on its head in the most bananas of ways. Similar to a rush of nitrous oxide in a drag race, without the aliens, the story could’ve held its own, but with the aliens, I never knew when the action would crank up to 100. And considering it rested at a solid 80, I can’t understand why SANCTUARY isn’t on everyone’s TBR. Seriously. Why isn’t this a bestseller yet?

The superpowers themselves included a few fan faves, but also some unique ones that I’ll forever associate with this series (yay!). Lexie’s struggle in reevaluating her training (which also meant going against her mother) had me feeling for her, and when the plot exploded, she had no choice but to follow her gut. Impulsive decisions in high-stress situations don’t always result in the best choices, but Lexie was one smart space guard, and her open mind—a trait not admired by Omnistellar—allowed her to roll with the punches, of which there were many.


As for the rest of the cast, I loved the lot. I credit Lix’s ability to get me to care for other characters as deeply as Lexie without a third-person narrator, because when certain characters died, a rush of feelings kicked me in the gut. Because oh yes, fellow book fiends. SANCTUARY is kind of like Game of Thrones. Not everybody gets out alive, and there’s no way to predict which ones won’t make it to the end. *spindles fingers while cackling*

Real talk: what else could you want?! This review is already on the long side and I’ve barely scratched the surface of SANCTUARY’S pure awesomeness. So please read SANCTUARY this very minute and then we can gab about all the insanity. Sound good? (For serious. Stop what you're doing and go buy this book. I'll wait.)

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC!




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This mani kind of got away from me, with all of the angles and colour blending--and lately the lighting has been terrible so these are flash shots--but I did my best and used:


FingerPaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

OPI - Fearlessly Alice, Give Me Space, and matte topcoat

China Glaze - Chroma Cool and Haute N Heavy

Glisten and Glow - Mother Wind

So Nailicious - needle brush