29.3.18

review and cover mani: she regrets nothing

SHE REGRETS NOTHING was a wild and sexy romp with the wealthy elite of NYC. Glittering with vintage jewels and rich writing, I was obsessed by the third chapter, and then spent the last quarter frozen in a fetal position of shock. Novels that lead with character versus plot don’t often earn high marks from me, because I need external action or I get *whispers*bored*whispers* But when done exceptionally well, character-driven narratives have the ability to transcend the page. And holy cannoli, SHE REGRETS NOTHING was one hundred percent the latter. I couldn’t get enough of the sublime dysfunction.




The book description, from Goodreads:

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth,the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

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For the most part, the Lawrences were self-involved narcissists, and it was a recipe for success to place Laila, a small-town social climber, into a world filled with the sort of folks who created complicated situations simply because they sought stimulation. Lock a handful of entitled characters in a room and each one will note the emergency exit, prepared to trample over all others in the case of an emergency, or maybe just because they feel like it. Ha! I love manipulative, ego-centric characters with a vindictive streak. They make the most marvellous pot stirrers.


Cover design by Rachel Willey
Cover Photograph by Tom Hull/Gallery Stock


But SHE REGRETS NOTHING isn't mindless fluff. The superb writing left me in awe of Dunlop’s smooth and addictive voice. Hell, I even pulled a bunch of quotes, which is a rarity. The pacing was perfect, and I loved learning about the layered past of each character.

Then there's the matter of the last 80 pages, which were COMPLETELY BANANAPANTS.

Like, they were a crescendo that lasted longer than any crescendo in the history of crescendos.

Because a thing happened—a thing that deserves to be all-caps, bold, and italicized. Yes friends, I’m talking about a THING so mental that I wanted to throw the book, pick it back up and then throw it again because AHHHHHHHH.




So while the novel started with Laila’s journey to the Big Apple, and followed her attempt to insert herself into her estranged family (which was highly entertaining on its own) the deep dive into each character’s mind served as a launching point for a sinister plot twist. Without knowing these people on such an intimate level, this THING wouldn't have held nearly as much weight. There's far more than meets the eye in SHE REGRETS NOTHING and I’m proud of other reviewers for not revealing a single hint about the madness, because I honestly had to talk to somebody afterwards—it’s just too mental! If you love Gossip Girl or The Real Housewives of Anything, or books about characters you'll love to hate (and also love because there are a couple of awesome ones!) you need to read SHE REGRETS NOTHING! 


Big thanks to Atria Books for sending me a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

OPI – Mod About You, You Are So Outta Lime, Lucky Lucky Lavender, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Fresh Prince-ss

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

So Nailicious – warrior, needle, and slayer brushes


23.3.18

review and cover mani: let me lie

LET ME LIE is the third release from Clare Mackintosh and omggggg, it’s just so good. Like, how does Mackintosh manage create such vibrant characters and then usher them through a continuous gauntlet of terrible awful things? I’m asking for a friend. Also, I am that friend because omgggggg.




The back jacket, from Goodreads:

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

The stunning, twisty new psychological thriller from number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and I See You.
 
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In my opinion, a good twist has a couple of components. First, I need to be invested, because if I don’t care about the characters involved, I won’t feel the weight of the surprise. In the case of LET ME LIE, the more thoughtful beginning of watching Anna cope with the suicide of both her parents really let me dive into her life. The first Christmas alone with her new baby, Anna managed the best she could, but it was a tricky balance to grieve while also questioning her parents' supposed suicides. Now, I won’t touch on what makes her suspicious, or what propels her determination forward, but I will say that because of those introductory, quieter chapters, when things got going, I wanted to dig out my old pom poms and cheer for Anna from my couch, because by that point, I’d become fully immersed in the stakes.


Cover design by Rita Frangie.
Cliffs by the sea by Michael Trevillion/Trevillion Images. 
Female figure by Mark Owen/Trevillion Images.

The second element I need for a fully effective HOLY CANNOLI moment, along with being invested in the characters, are those subtle clues that seem mundane when I read them, only to transform into blazing neon orange arrows later on. “Gotcha” moments are okay, but they don't feel like I’ve witnessed a magic trick. Mackintosh is all about the “look at my left hand to distract you from what my right hand is doing” and it’s AMAZING. Dollars to donuts, I’m looking at that left hand every time, which forces me to physically expel my surprise with a string of NO WAY WHATs, followed by furious, reverse-page-flipping to trace the intricate plotting, mouth agape. In LET ME LIE, that happened no less than three times (yay!). 



So if you love books that draw you in, protagonists who don't always make the wisest choice (which sucks in real life but is awesome in fiction haha), and rising tension that'll have you tearing through the second half, then make sure you read LET ME LIE! And also I LET YOU GO and I SEE YOU. Because Clare Mackintosh. 




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For this mani, I used:

OPI – Gelato On My Mind, Stay Off the Lawn, CIA = Color Is Awesome, You Are So Outta Lime, You Don’t Know Jacques, and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Throne-In’ Shade and Rock N’ Royale

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

Julep – Payton and Eliana

ORLY – Makeup to Breakup and Scandal

So Nailicious – warrior, needle, and slayer brushes



16.3.18

review and cover mani: rainbirds

RAINBIRDS is a quiet and powerful story about love and grief. The sort of novel that should not be rushed through, it defies genre. The use of multiple literary elements wove together to create a silken tapestry and the result is a stunning debut that in no way reads like a debut. Oh yes, this is a raving five-star review so get ready for the awesomeness!



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko's sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister's affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

But Ren soon finds himself picking up where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a local cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s catatonic wife.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.
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Goenawan’s sparse writing took a few chapters to sink in to, as my mind has become more accustomed to digesting longer sentences with short pauses for commas. But once I found the rhythm, this elegant style of composition elevated the story’s reflective nature. Firmly grounded while still maintaining airs of magical realism, the deceptively simple prose became a whisper in a crowded room that beckoned me to come closer and stay a while.


Jacket design by Janine Agro
Jacket image by Don Farrall/Getty


Now, the grief. Personally, I tend to keep my emotions under wraps and Ren’s similar personality in that regard meant there were no dramatic outbursts. His baseline of pain remained with him at all times, but confined to his peripheral vision as he tried to find out what happened to his sister.

As Ren learned more about Keiko’s circumstances in Akakawa, he had to navigate a host of emotions that surged to the forefront, mostly because Ren realized he didn’t know Keiko as well as he’d thought. Those devastating moments were more contemplative than explosive, and it’s where Ren’s grief became palpable—introspective acceptance that made my chest tighten while tears pressed against the back of my eyes. A feat of accomplishment, because I never felt manipulated. Instead, RAINBIRDS read like I’d been invited into the most guarded parts of Ron’s consciousness during a painful moment in his life, and the empathy I experienced came from a genuine place.




So while there are mystery elements, RAINBIRDS isn’t a whodunit. Nor is it pure magical realism or simply an examination of grief. Instead, it’s a story that stands by itself, gleaming like a beacon for those who want to feel something real. I cannot recommend it more intensely (*stares at you for an awkward amount of time*) so for real you need a copy as soon as humanly possible.


Big thanks to Clarissa for sending me an ARC all the way from Singapore!

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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Under the Boardwalk, Plur-ple, and Sun Worshiper

OPI – Kiss Me On My Tulips, In My Back Pocket, and matte topcoat

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

So Nailicious – needle and slayer brushes