review and cover mani: the book of m

THE BOOK OF M took me a few days to completely absorb. Lyrical and dark, I fell under the spell of Shepherd’s prose. Plus, the premise was fresh as hell and things got crazy. A rollercoaster ride for the mind and heart, there’s something for everyone in THE BOOK OF M.

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.


Contemporary fantasy is one of my favourite genres because it stretches the world I’m already in. THE BOOK OF M was set in a recognizable future, where things were mostly the same-old, until shadows started disappearing—at first a seemingly innocuous occurrence that grew sinister when the person’s memories began to disappear in turn. With no medical explanation to verify why some shadows vanished while others remained firmly attached, every character was at risk. The constant worry of becoming shadowless served as a baseline for escalating tension. 

Cover design ©️ Leo Nickolls Design
Cover photograph ©️ All Canada Photos/Almy Stock Photo

Beginning with two characters, Ory, who retained his shadow and Max, who’d just lost hers, provided two different points of view, although both perspectives were saturated with fear. Fear of losing the other, losing themselves, and general fear of the world at large, as it could no longer be relied upon for safety and security. Max’s quest led her south, as a persistent rumour stated there could be a man with a cure, while Ory longed to find Max before she forgot him. On their respective ways, old friends reemerged, new friends were made, and oh what an adventure they had. Ory and Max had no choice but to press on, no matter what obstacle lay in their path. Whether over or under, fight or surrender, they kept going, and the further they got, the more they had to risk—another opportunity for agonizing tension that Shepherd used to its full potential. 

Supporting characters also played vital roles in THE BOOK OF M, each with their own specific objectives. Depending on the time, they would either help or hinder Ory and Max and as a reader, I never knew which way it would fall. A few other narrators made an appearance, but I won’t spoil who they were. Their combination with Ory and Max tackled the shadow/less phenomenon from all angles, leaving no aspect from the fallout of memory loss unexplored. Heartwarming and heartbreaking with an overall sinister vibe, THE BOOK OF M was as much about the characters as the plot, which made for a thoroughly immersive reading experience. 


For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism, Inkblot Blue, and Paper Mâché

ORLY – Skinny Dip

China Glaze – The Outer Edge

piCture pOlish – saphira and alice

OPI – Give Me Space

Glisten and Glow – topcoat

So Nailicious – needle brush


review and cover mani: the outsider

I have several major fears, and much to my (evil) imagination’s delight, two of them appeared in THE OUTSIDER. I won’t share which fears they were, but let’s just say that I was extra vigilant to close curtains, lock doors, and do a full sweep of our house before heading to bed…where I’d toss and turn, worried that I was about to get murdered. Yay? Haha, of course it’s a yay, even when I’m huddled under the covers, attached to my husband like a spider monkey because there’s a strange shadow in the hallway. You’ve likely seen the cover by now, so I’m sure you can sympathize why this particular novel hit my scardy-cat nerves. (Note: shadows in a hallway aren’t one of my major fears, so there are still two more terrifying ones in attendance.)

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

From #1 New York Times bestseller Stephen King, whose brand has never been stronger, comes one of his most propulsive and unsettling stories ever.

An eleven-year-old boy is found in a town park, hideously assaulted and murdered. The fingerprints (and later DNA) are unmistakably those of the town’s most popular baseball coach, Terry Maitland, a man of impeccable reputation, with a wife and two daughters. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland coached, orders an immediate and public arrest. Maitland is taken to jail, his claim to innocence scorned. Maitland has a foolproof alibi, with footage to prove that he was in another city when the crime was committed. But that doesn't save him either.

King constructs a propulsive plot, and a race against time to uncover the identity of a terrifying and diabolical killer who has left victims—and “perpetrators”—across the country, and who is on his way to his next horrific act.

King’s psychological suspense is at its most riveting in this extraordinarily dramatic and eerie story. He is devastatingly vivid on the experience of being falsely blamed—the effect on the accused, the spouse, the children; the suspicion of friends, even the most loyal; the impossibility of ever being innocent again (if you are lucky enough to live). He is also masterful at showing us that supernatural monsters are startlingly like human beings who do monstrous things.


Before digging into THE OUTSIDER, I caught Stephen King on Colbert, where he spoke about the inspiration for his latest novel: the idea that everybody has a twin. As expected, King took that premise and injected a healthy dose of horror. The result was a book that had me questioning what I would do when confronted with a fact that’s 100% true and simultaneously 100% false. I read enough fantasy/paranomal to be confident that I’d accept (and be psyched by) a supernatural sort of explanation, because some situations can’t be explained in traditional reality. For others, it’s not that easy (which is a testament to why reading fiction is awesome). Believing in the unbelievable requires a certain degree of willing openness and not everyone can suspend their disbelief, as the acknowledgement of the fantastical can launch a person into an existential crisis. That was the case for Ralph Anderson, a police officer who struggled to make sense of Terry Maitland’s ability to be in two places at the same time. Watching Ralph grapple with the process of seeing the truth in a sweeping grey-scale instead of black and white, was psychological suspense at its best. 

Jacket design and artwork by Will Staehle/Unusual Corporation

Alongside the primary plot of “what the hell is going on,” King delved into the fallout of being accused of a horrific crime in a small community. Each perspective was given a chance to shine: Terry, his wife, kids, and legal team, which gave a 360°view of this horrible situation. When faith is broken, it’s all too easy to turn your back on people who’d been your friends only a minute earlier, but what happens when one is too quick to judge? Universal themes with a side of terror are where the King shines, and the way he traced the ripple effect provided a grounded and realistic base to the story. 

The last line of the back jacket, “He is also masterful at showing us that supernatural monsters are startlingly like human beings who do monstrous things,” is the best one-line description of THE OUTSIDERS, so reader beware: you will be freaked the freak out, and not just by the paranormal elements. With King’s trademark, engaging writing and creepy vibes to the extreme, if you’re in the mood to not sleep for several days, THE OUTSIDER is the book for you! 

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a finished copy!


For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

China Glaze – Chroma Cool and Immortal

OPI – Lucerine-Tanly Look Marvelous, Rollin’ In Cashmere, A Good Man-Darin Is Hard To Find, matte topcoat

So Nailicious – needle brush

Mitty Burns – minty brush


blog tour: tell me lies

Last Saturday, I spent all day glued to the pages of TELL ME LIES. Holy addictive novel, friends! The unhealthy dynamic between Lucy and Stephen had me all: "Oh girrrrrrl nooooooo." But in an empathetic way, because I've been there, battling romantic feelings towards a charming person who basically treats you like shit. While Lucy and Stephen shared the narration in alternating POV chapters, this story was more about Lucy. Mostly because she was the only one capable of growth, although it pains me to say that Stephen’s voice brought this book to the next level (because yikes, what a nightmare character).

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A thrilling, sexy coming-of-age story exploring toxic love, ruthless ambition, and shocking betrayal, Tell Me Lies is about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, Tell Me Lies follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. Deep down, Lucy knows she has to acknowledge the truth about Stephen. But before she can free herself from this addicting entanglement, she must confront and heal her relationship with her mother—or risk losing herself in a delusion about what it truly means to love.

With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go, even when you know you should. 


I had concerns about reading TELL ME LIES when the back jacket used “toxic love” to describe Lucy and Stephen’s relationship, because I thought it was a veiled way of saying “abusive.” I suppose an argument could be made to that effect, in so far as emotional manipulation, but I saw the implosion of two people who gravitated towards each other, even when it wasn't good for them. Mostly on Lucy's part, of course, because of the two, she was far more emotionally involved, which invariably meant she got hurt. Reading her POV was more of a challenge than Stephen's, because I could feel her pain and frustration—her yearning to be loved, no matter what the cost. But Stephen’s charismatic words were a siren song, each carefully constructed compliment luring Lucy deeper and deeper into dangerous waters. Choosing to believe promises over actions never ends well, and again, I’ve been there. In fact, TELL ME LIES brought up memories about my own version of Stephen, which made me tackle-hug myself* because thank goodness I figured out I deserved better. 

*If you try this, make sure you're in front of a couch or other more forgiving surface because you'll propel yourself backwards and landing on your tailbone isn't a good time. *gets bag of ice*

Jacket design by Donna Cheng

That said, Lovering NAILED Stephen's perspective, the sort of man who figures out how to manipulate another person's behaviour to his benefit, and to their detriment. Like, Lovering straight up set Stephen's POV on fire and I couldn’t stop staring at the flames. At times, I found myself chuckling at Stephen's douchebaggery, as it reminded me SO MUCH of my former off-and-on Stephen-esque relationship. I could actually picture him mirroring Stephen's exact same ego-centric rationale for his behaviour—justifying a hot and cold routine because he wants what he wants when he wants it. I also appreciated that Lovering didn't choose a smokeshow antagonist. Instead, Stephen's physical looks were on the average side, which I thought reinforced his dangerous nature--a seemingly innocuous exterior while inside, he was pure predator. 

{I had another paragraph here, where I said some specific things about Lucy’s path, but have since realized it’s spoiler-y. I could’ve just deleted this entirely, but wanted you to know that I could talk about this incredible book for much longer than this review appears in its final version. Because yes, it’s that good.}

When a novel consumes me to the point that I forget it’s fiction, going so far as to have me reliving my own memories, I’m left in awe. That is absolutely the case with TELL ME LIES. I’m in actual awe of what Lovering accomplished. Characterization done to perfection, TELL ME LIES earns a standing-ovation-style five stars from me, and is a must-read for anyone who’s been sucked into the orbit of a human death star.

Big thanks to Atria Books for a finished copy, and for including me on the blog tour!


For this mani, I used:

OPI – Kiss Me On My Tulips and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Kiki In Our Tiki

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

White acrylic paint

So Nailicious – needle brush

Triangular makeup sponge


review and cover mani: every single secret

I am a major Emily Carpenter fan. With each release, her prose and southern gothic atmosphere manages to get stronger. In EVERY SINGLE SECRET, I’m psyched to report that she’s reached even higher highs. Creepy and a mind-bender in the best way, the tension forced me to stay up three hours later than my usual bedtime, because I’d tried to fall asleep and wound up tossing-and-turning. Yes, you read that right, my raging curiosity actually forced me to get back up and keep reading into the wee hours of the morning. I can say, with confidence, that's never happened before. The following, sluggish day was worth it, so get ready to add a doozy to your TBR, friends!

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

“A true psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.” —Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night
Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancé, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.
The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.
One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.

I felt an immediate kinship with Daphne Amos. She didn’t like talking about her childhood, choosing to keep the past in the past in order to move forward. Meeting a man with similar sensibilities, Heath, who happened to also be a level 10 smokeshow, felt like a match in heaven, until said smokeshow started having intense nightmares. Naturally, the best solution was to seek help from a renowned doctor, in a secluded location where the staff seemed a bit off and the only activities were hiking or talking about feelings. So in essence, Daphne’s nightmare (and also my own, tbh).

Cover design by Rex Bonomelli

In typical form, Carpenter got the ball moving quickly. Within a couple of chapters, Daphne and Heath were at the retreat and yellow warning lights began flashing the moment they arrived. Locked rooms, forbidden areas, being monitored 24/7, and an eerie forest made for an unsettling vibe. That sensation intensified when Daphne met Dr. Cerny. There wasn’t a safe place or person in the entire place, and it filled me with unrelenting paranoia. For real, I whispered* WTF to myself for the better part of the second half, while having to remind my fingers to relax because their clenched grip kept bending the pages. 

*if The Remix hadn’t been sleeping beside me, these would’ve been screams.

Friends, I cannot stress how bananas this plot became--a banana pantsuit of awesome, if you will. It’s completely mental, with questions piling on top of other questions, and a healthy dollop of wait, WHAT?! I guarantee you'll never be able to predict this plot's utterly twisted path, and recommend carving out solitary reading time during daylight for EVERY SINGLE SECRET, or you’ll be burning the midnight oil and/or blatantly ignoring your family. Like a can of Pringles, once you pop this novel, you can’t stop. 

Big thanks to Emily Carpenter for sending me a finished copy!


For this mani, I used:
FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché
OPI – Strawberry Margarita, A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, and matte topcoat
China Glaze – Wait N’ Sea, Queen B, Just a Little Embellishment, and I’ll Sand By You
So Nailicious – needle and slayer brushes