28.9.18

review and cover mani: the sisters of the winter wood

A Jewish YA fantasy with a historical bend, THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD swept me out of the hot mess that is society at the moment and let me escape into a world filled with magic, the bonds of sisterhood, and romance. All of that awesomeness happened within a fairy tale retelling, so, I mean, does it get better than that? Of course it can. Just look at this stunning cover!!


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner's debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods.

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life - even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods...

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be - and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

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When recently describing THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD to a friend (aka majorly peer pressuring them to read it) the point I kept stressing was the book’s perfect pace. Tension lurked behind the scenes, blended into every day conversations and moments, like a heartbeat. Between Liba and Laya’s secret of their magical heritage, the political climate of their community, anti-Semitism, and trying not to starve while their parents were away, the sisters were kept on their guard 24/7.  


Cover design by Rebecca Yanovskaya


So while juggling all of that and hanging on by sheer will, it was obviously the perfect (read: worst) moment for a crew of unnaturally attractive men to blow into town, pulling Laya under their spell. Because, you know, there wasn’t enough happening already. With a host of odds stacked against the sisters, cheering for them felt as natural as breathing. The Yiddish expressions added to the strong voice (tip: there’s an glossary in the back!), as did Laya’s POV, which was written entirely in prose. I’m not a poetry kind of gal but I really got into the delivery. Her chapters elevated the magical vibes, and the tempo change forced me to slow down, ultimately drawing me deeper into the tale.




Rossner’s use of atmosphere served as one of my favourite parts of THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD, because the woods sprinkled an ominous tone over each scene. Whenever Liba and Laya entered the woods, I worried about what laid within its depths, waiting to strike. I also appreciated the quieter strength from Laya and Liba. There are many forms of strength, not just wielding a sword or assassinating villains. Making hard choices requires bravery, as does standing up for one’s beliefs in the face of scrutiny. No matter what happened, Liba stuck to her moral compass. No amount of convincing could stray Liba from rescuing her sister, and considering Liba’s upbringing and community, that took major courage. For younger readers, this is an important message and Rossner executed it beautifully. So basically, THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD was like a Pinterest crepe cake; satisfying layers of deliciousness that worked together to create one heck of a scrumptious, yet thoughtful, retelling. Five stars all the way. 


Big thanks to Orbit books for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mache

OPI – Rollin’ In Cashmere and matte topcoat

Glisten and Glow – Mother Terra

So Nailicious – needle brush









21.9.18

review and cover mani: three days missing

THREE DAYS MISSING has been popping up everywhere on bookstagram and I’m so happy I finally had time to read it. Kimberly Belle flexed her mystery muscles here, because with a small cast, suspicion could only land on so many characters. Using two very different POVS, Kat and Stef, each had a mission to uncover hidden secrets in their lives, which led to me doubting just about everybody aka exactly what I love in a suspense so yay!



The back jacket description, from Goodreads:

Those closest to us are often the most dangerous…

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.

When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight field trip with his class. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground where he was last seen. But she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance will have earth-shattering consequences in Stef’s own life—and the paths of these two mothers are about to cross in ways no one could have anticipated.

Racing against the clock, their desperate search for answers begins—one where the greatest danger could lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most. 

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Thanks to a pitch-perfect depiction of guttural panic, I immediately felt for Kat. Without being too jumpy to follow, Kat’s muddled thoughts and spikes of adrenaline-laced fear where she couldn’t keep it together set my own heart racing. I did find the pace slower in the second half versus the second, but think it’s because the frantic nature of Kat’s narrative dulled, as I’d imagine it would in real life. The human psyche can only take so much stress before it shuts down, a sense of urgency making way for the dread of bad news on the horizon. That said, the latter half contained a fair number of twists, where previously dismissed mentions and brief information drops circled back to take on a fuller shape. I can’t go into detail without including spoilers, which is a shame, but rest assured that there was a lot I didn’t see coming (and hopefully you won’t either!). 


Cover Photo: Getty Images
Art Director: Kathleen Oudit
Designer: Sean Kapitain


As much as THREE DAYS MISSING was about Kat and Stef trying to find Ethan (meaning, primarily staying out of the police's way and reevaluating their relationships--this wasn't a sleuth-y sort of suspense)  Ethan proved to be more than a proverbial picture on a milk carton. He and Stef's son had strong personalities and complications of their own, and I enjoyed how the kids were able to contribute the plot. The descriptive writing painted vivid pictures in my mind, bringing the mountainside setting to life, so really, this book took advantage of every opportunity to set a tone. Starting on a micro level and then expanding into a series of bananas wait-what-who moments, the three-day timeline kept tension in every scene, and adding in the emotive components from the mothers had my stomach in knots. 




One final note: I'd like to suggest that if THREE DAYS MISSING seems like the book for you, carve out time to devour it in one or two sittings. I had a crazy week while reading and could only get through fifty pages or so before falling asleep, which sucked because had I been able fully immerse myself, I would've flown right through it. So don't be like me, friends. Plan ahead and reap the benefits!




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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Sun Worshiper, Def Defying, and Trip of a Lime Time

OPI – A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Rollin’ In Cashmere, In My Back Pocket and matte topcoat

Glisten and Glow – Mother Fauna and Mother Terra

FingerPaints – Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes



13.9.18

review and cover mani: the house of one thousand eyes

When I first heard of THE HOUSE OF ONE THOUSAND EYES, it sounded like a great dystopian read. Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was actually historical fiction set behind the Berlin Wall, so tomato to-mah-to? With strong 1984 vibes that hit close to home *glances south* this novel started small and then stretched into a high-stakes, tension-packed reading experience.



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Who can Lena trust to help her find out the truth? Life in East Germany in the early 1980s is not easy for most people, but for Lena, it’s particularly hard. After the death of her parents in a factory explosion and time spent in a psychiatric hospital recovering from the trauma, she is sent to live with her stern aunt, a devoted member of the ruling Communist Party. Visits with her beloved Uncle Erich, a best-selling author, are her only respite. But one night, her uncle disappears without a trace. Gone also are all his belongings, his books, and even his birth records. Lena is desperate to know what happened to him, but it’s as if he never existed. The worst thing, however, is that she cannot discuss her uncle or her attempts to find him with anyone, not even her best friends. There are government spies everywhere. But Lena is unafraid and refuses to give up her search, regardless of the consequences. This searing novel about defiance, courage, and determination takes readers into the chilling world of a society ruled by autocratic despots, where nothing is what it seems.

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Paranoia touched every character in THE HOUSE OF ONE THOUSAND EYES, as the Stasi didn’t mess around when it came to dissent. Even the wisp of a critique towards the government could send someone to a blank space on the map, or spurn a vicious rumour to isolate the one who'd complained, along with any other number of reprimands. Knowing that up front immediately created pressure, because nobody could be trusted. Lena, however, found herself in a unique situation. Thanks to her stay in a psychiatric hospital, Lena was granted a certain degree of invisibility, which she used to her advantage once her Uncle went missing.   


Cover art/design by Emma Dolan


I found myself connecting to Lena early on, sympathizing with the restrictive nature of her daily routine. Her imagination struck me as a barely used muscle, because the Stasi encouraged dreaming just as much as they encouraged freedom of thought. Meaning, not at all. But Erich did. He cared about Lena’s opinions and encouraged her to think outside the box. So when he disappeared—the only person who Lena felt seen by—I understood why she’d risk her safety and the safety of her Aunt. Understanding her motivations didn’t stop a rush of fear from hitting me in the heart, though. One wrong move would earn Lena a one-way ticket back to the asylum (or worse), and that threat made even small scenes feel tense. More than once, I noticed my eyes flicking around the room as if I were the one who could be overheard. Overcome with the need for Lena to be okay, I’d have to stop myself from skimming pages during her subterfuge efforts—the true mark of me being invested.



The pace did meander at times, and I would’ve appreciated a smoother blend of the secondary storylines, but the dollop of romance gave Lena more room to grow, and the ending had me tipping my hat to Michelle Barker. If you’re into historical YA or dystopian-like novels with a protagonist who’ll bring out your protective side, make sure you pick up THE HOUSE OF ONE THOUSAND EYES!

Big thanks to Annick Press for a finished copy!




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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Rock N’ Royal

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

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

Glisten & Glow – Mother Terra and basecoat

So Nailicious – needle brush




5.9.18

review and cover mani: women talking

WOMEN TALKING was a hard read. The premise certainly covered the subject matter, but the delivery—the exquisite composition—had me bouncing from reader-sinking-into-the-story to rage-filled-reader-who-needs-a-cocktail. Clocking in at a little over 200 pages, I should have been able to read WOMEN TALKING in one sitting, but had to break it up because of the fury. Let me explain.



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Between 2005 and 2009, in a remote religious Mennonite colony, over a hundred girls and women were knocked unconscious and raped, often repeatedly, by what many thought were ghosts or demons, as a punishment for their sins. As the women tentatively began to share the details of the attacks-waking up sore and bleeding and not understanding why their stories were chalked up to 'wild female imagination.'

Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events. Eight women, all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their colony and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in, meet secretly in a hayloft with the intention of making a decision about how to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm. They have two days to make a plan, while the men of the colony are away in the city attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists (not ghosts as it turns out but local men) and bring them home.

How should we live? How should we love? How should we treat one another? How should we organise our societies? These are questions the women in Women Talking ask one another-and Miriam Toews makes them the questions we must all ask ourselves. 

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I like reading fiction because it creates a certain degree of detachment. When terrible things happen to characters I care about, I feel sympathy to a degree, but the details don’t burrow into my soul. Fiction based on true events can be trickier because I can’t stop myself from remembering the real world origins. In the case of WOMEN TALKING, the whole reason these women were in a hayloft had actually happened, which meant that I often found myself putting the book down in order to seethe and start prepping signs for the next women’s march.  

Jacket Design: Kelly Hill
Jacket Art: (Alphabet) Bukhavets Mikhail/Shutterstock

Going sideways for a moment, the jacket cover for WOMEN TALKING has a special feature. On the front cover, coloured letters spell out “Love” while on the back, letters spell our “Anger.” As my anger rose to the surface quickly, I questioned where the love component could possibly come into play, but sure enough, it did, first and foremost with the women themselves. The meetings were transcribed (and therefore narrated) by August, a teacher with low social standing, and his voice did an excellent job at describing the women’s pragmatic and contemplative approach on deciding how to best protect themselves. How love for family, community, and God, weighed on their hearts. 

The pacifist nature of the Mennonite faith expanded the conversation in a direction that wouldn’t have occurred to me, and the focus on forgiveness challenged my anger-only stance. The women couldn’t just dismiss the idea of forgiveness for (imo) an unforgiveable act, and in their closed society that had no education or rights for women, open wife battery and corporal punishment, an expectation of obedience from any man over the age of fifteen, each woman still had the courage to come together and make a decision that best served themselves. Within forty-eight hours no less, and yet nobody was rushed or talked over. Opinions were respected and when tempers flared, the women would pause to sing in collective harmony (literally), whisper soothing words to those in distress, or otherwise calm the room. The kindness was humbling and thinking about them right now is making me tear up. Honestly, my admiration knew no bounds and I found myself getting fiercely protective, which is why upon mention of the reason behind their gathering, often delivered in a matter-of-fact and brief graphic statement, my stabby instincts would return and I’d have to take a break. 



In sum, this book was way smart. So smart that writing this review has been a challenge, as I’m the sort of blogger who leans toward a peppier style with fun descriptions like bananapants and holy cannoli, none of which were appropriate for WOMEN TALKING. My attachment to the characters, the handful of subplots that danced alongside the primary issue, the way Toews braided forgiveness, anger, faith, and love—what they mean together and alone—within the context of an extreme patriarchal community, joined forces for a powerful reading experience. Five stars plus a million stars, for a total of one million and five stars. 

Big thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for a finished copy!


Indigo | Amazon | AmazonUS (preorder)

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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Dance Baby, Don’t Be Sea Salty, At Your Athleisure, Kiki In Our Tiki, Wait N’ Sea, Trip of a Lime Time, Change Your Altitude

OPI – In My Back Pocket, Need Sunglasses, and matte topcoat

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

So Nailicious – needle brush