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.


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.  


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


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.


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!


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


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. 


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!


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


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.


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!


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